Downtown Wilmington economic meeting focuses on new housing, hotels

Downtown Wilmington economic meeting focuses on new housing, hotels
New construction seen in Downtown Wilmington. (Source: WECT)

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Growth is evident across New Hanover County as developers seize the opportunity to provide housing for a booming area.

Some state projections estimate a population growth of almost 80,000 people in New Hanover County from 2010-2030.

At the Wilmington Downtown Inc.'s fall economic series presentation Thursday, Porter Jones of DPJ Residential said he believes Wilmington is just starting to take off.

“Unlike Charlotte and Raleigh [which] have been really growing for the last 20-30 years, we feel like Wilmington has lagged, but at this point, we feel like Wilmington is in the early stages of their growth cycle and so we wanted to get in on the ground floor and really be part of that growth,” Jones said.

DPJ Residential is constructing a luxury apartment community on North Front Street called Flats on Front.

Jones says Wilmington is unique in the demographic looking for such housing.

“Unlike Charlotte and Raleigh, some of the other major markets where you get a lot of millennials who want to live in apartments, we feel like Wilmington actually has on the other side, an older demographic, you know 55 and older, active adults, who just want the low maintenance lifestyle of living in an apartment with all the bells and whistles,” he said.

The landscape of the northern side of downtown will drastically change in the coming years with ongoing construction, including the development of Waterfront Park.

“Up until now, that part of the downtown hasn’t been as active but we feel like having that outdoor amphitheater and the park there is really going to be beneficial for everyone that lives around there,” Jones said.

Apartments aren’t the only growing sector. Arrive Hotel opened on 2nd Street earlier this year and is already planning its expansion which will double its capacity. Plans are in place to build on the hotel’s current guest parking lot.

“When we start the second phase of our project, we will lose the surface parking lot. We’ve made arrangements for valet parking, there’s plenty of garage parking, our valet operator that we’re contracting with will be using that. It hasn’t seemed to be an issue for our guests yet, but I guess we’ll see what happens as it grows,” said Arrive Hotels C.O.O Noah Ellis.

While many are concerned with how the city and county will manage such rapid growth, the president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc., says the north side of downtown is exactly where this growth needs to happen.

“For almost forty years, some of this land has been sitting fallow, empty, unused, so downtown is really the perfect target of where we want development. We have a street grid, we have water/sewer lines, all that stuff is already here so it’s really maximizing public investments that have already been made,” said Ed Wolverton.

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