Wilmington City Council kicks off ‘Gateway’ project

Council to discuss mix-use development

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Wilmington City Council approved a resolution that begins the process of turning four parcels on the north side of downtown into an official welcome mat for the port city.

The city purchased the properties at 1020, 922, 908 and 901 N. Third St. several years ago in an effort to secure high quality redevelopment because they are located at a key gateway into Wilmington.

“The Gateway Site” project can finally get underway after the city unanimously supported a resolution authorizing a Request for Proposal (RFP) process for a mixed-use development.

In the RFP, which council member Kevin O’Grady said he was impressed with, the city outlines their list of goals for the development, as well as the requirements.

The city wants the mixed-use project to contain housing, commercial space and public space, namely a visitors center.

For an RFP, developers submit their ideas for how the project would look — from the number of units to the design of the facade and landscaping.

Mayor Bill Saffo said the council has been upfront about wanting to have control over how that area develops.

He said they want to see the Gateway become an attraction for the city, but also a means to address some of the needs in that part of town.

City Council members approved a resolution in 2017 saying the housing included in the redevelopment plan should have units available to middle income wage earning families.

“These are individual or families who’s household income meet 80% of our median household income. According to our most recent HUD data, the median income is $72,200 per family,” the document reads. “These citizens are essential contributors in our community. Their typical jobs may be teachers, nurses, local government employees, law enforcement officers, and fire fighters.”

Using the 80% metric, that would be a family with an income of $57,760.

Wilmington’s median household income is closer to $52,000 annually. A household is any person or group of people living in the same place, where a family is determined by relation.

Typically, according to Moody’s, city’s median household income is lower than its median family income because of how it weights the incomes of the very young or the very old, because single individuals are considered to be a household of one, and the very young and very old typically earn less.

After a meeting where affordable housing was emotionally discussed, Saffo said he hopes developers will propose plans for housing units that would be affordable for people who make less than that amount, so there would be a “workforce housing” element.

O’Grady and Saffo said there has already been interest from developers over the Gateway project.

“To already have the number of inquiries on that particular site, is exciting, and I think the citizens are going to be very pleased at the final outcome, as to what this project will look like when it’s done," he said. “We have developers from all over the country that are looking at this site, and it’s exciting.”

Developers have until Aug. 30 to submit their proposals to the city.

The RFP documents give detailed instructions, and developers will have to provide references.

City staff will evaluate the proposals to make sure they meet the minimum standards; then the council will consider the proposals on Oct. 1.

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