Developers present revised plan to combine library and museum to NHC commissioners

New Hanover County Library main branch in downtown Wilmington
New Hanover County Library main branch in downtown Wilmington(WECT)
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 3:54 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - On Thursday, March 30, a team of developers spoke to the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners on revised plans to move the aging downtown library and combine it with the Cape Fear Museum.

Cape Fear Development has been working with LS3P and Monteith on the original plans bought by the county from Zimmer Development after the Local Government Commission voted against the terms of the lease agreement. That plan included a public-private partnership, with the county selling the land to the developer and leasing it back over time. Per the county, the first request for qualifications on Project Grace was released back in April 2018.

The new development agreement would use bonds to pay for the building and still place the library and museum on the north side of the block at Grace Street between N 3rd and N 2nd streets.

Developers say the project has a budget of up to $60.52 million, and that they would manage the project at a reduced fee of 3.5 percent. Upon completion, they would purchase the southern parcel containing the existing library for at least $3.5 million. This is about $900,000 higher than the offer in the previous plan, and this parcel could then be converted into a private development.

The team says that they have largely seen positive responses to the current plan.

The plan purchased by the county started with a cost of $64 million, and they were able to cut about $4 million for a total of about $60 million. Developers have also taken a look at the reuse of the existing library, but renovating the 1950s structure would require almost entirely stripping it down and building it back up: a process that would cost more than building a new one.

Renovating the library would also mean either relocating the library services or stopping them entirely for 18 months as renovations are completed.

From here, the project is set to go in front of commissioners in May.