Development proposed on west bank of Cape Fear River would change Wilmington’s skyline

There are concerns about flooding, utilities, and even pollution
Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 7:07 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The west bank of the Cape Fear River has remained undeveloped for decades, but that could soon change.

Developers are unveiling plans for a massive, $700 million high density, mixed-use community across from Wilmington’s downtown.

The company behind The Villages at Battleship Point is currently in the process of getting the land rezoned from industrial to mixed use, but if everything goes according to plan, they hope to put shovels in the ground in 2024.

From there, their first order of business would be to clean the property up, address the chemical contamination in the soil, and put in a living shoreline to restore the river, all before the construction begins.

The proposed buildings would be about 20 stories tall, featuring hundreds of condos and apartments, a hotel, retail, a museum, restaurants, and amenities like a grocery store to make the area self-sufficient and an attraction in itself.

Developers have also expressed interest in a river taxi to carry guests between the Villages at Battleship Point and downtown Wilmington.

“I want to rebuild and reinvigorate this river front, and that’s how we started, you know it really started with sitting at the Marina Grille and looking across the river and going ‘Why has no one ever done anything with this?’” explained KFJ development group technical director Frank Pasquale. “Restaurants, the convention center, even the amphitheater, you know city marina, Marina Grille you look out across the river and what do you see you see? You see a mess.”

The property looks more like a dumping ground now, but developers are looking past the industrial equipment and forgotten debris and envisioning unique, modern architecture with a view of Wilmington’s biggest attractions.

Other developers have tried to build on the land before, but the plans melted away after hitting major obstacles with roads, utilities and flooding.

However, in the last decade, water and sewer lines have been made available and the DOT’s plan to revise the interchange near the Isabel Holmes Bridge have allowed this project to march forward.

“We can get sewer, we can get water, we can get the traffic on and off the property. Other people couldn’t get that,” said Pasquale.

They’ve accounted for flooding concerns, too with the complex’s innovative design.

“When you actually get into the central portion of where the buildings are going to be, you’ll actually be driving into an underground — well you think it’s an underground garage, but it’s at grade, and what we’re doing is we’re building the project 40 to 50 feet above it,” said Pasquale.

The entire complex will be taller than anything Wilmington has ever seen, towering approximately 20 stories high, and drawing inspiration from the city’s history and icons like the Battleship.

The buildings follow the land to a narrow point at the intersection of the two rivers that’s designed to look like the bow of the Battleship.

A 200-foot waterfall flows in the middle of the central plaza, emptying into a series of pools, ponds and a babbling brook before it returns to the Cape Fear River, to celebrate the beauty and importance of the river.

“We want to develop it to be a showpiece for the city. We want to develop it to be a place where people when they come to Wilmington go, ‘Whoah!’”

A public meeting will be held on this project Wednesday at the Keller Williams office on Military Cutoff for the community to drop by and ask questions.

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