City of Wilmington considering spending $3.5 million or more to buy downtown property

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Submitted: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 4:31am
Updated: Fri, 11/08/2013 - 11:19pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Two days after the municipal election, the City of Wilmington announced it is negotiating with Chuck Schoninger and Riverfront Holdings II, LLC to possibly buy land on the northern downtown riverfront for a “passive waterfront park.”

The proposed park would be between 6 and 7 acres and would cost the city between $3.5 and $4 million, according to a city spokeswoman. The city wants to sell one acre of similar property behind the convention center for $579,000 to a developer to build a hotel.

The exact size of the property, the terms of proposed amendments to the existing development agreement or the land purchase agreement have been finalized.

According to an email from the city, it has considered park space for downtown for several years and open space is the number one recommendation in the city’s Vision 2020 plan that outlines a plan for downtown growth and development. “The lack of downtown parks and open space has a critical impact on the urban environment. Without inviting recreation opportunities or public gathering places, the reasons for visiting or staying downtown are reduced for both local residents and tourists,” the plan states.

In a StarNewsonline article from 2008, Riverfront Holdings II, LLC wanted to develop some of this land itself, building hotels, restaurants, offices and condominiums. But it was seeking a deal with the city that would reimburse it for the cost of providing public infrastructure, including a road running from the city’s future convention center (at the time) to the Isabel Holmes Bridge.

Riverfront Holdings estimated then that it would spend $7.2 million on roads, water, sewer and other public services, an investment it wants the city to repay using a portion of the increased property tax generated by transforming the old industrial land.

Schoninger is in the midst of building a marina next to the convention center and says he also has plans to build a Hotel Indigo on a parcel of his downtown property.

The city expects to have finalized documents ready for City Council to consider at their Nov. 19 meeting.


  • jj says:

    Come on, they are trying to help a friend. Isn’t this the same property they were trying to buy for a ballpark? If so then it has to be to help a friend make money.

    Spend the money on raods are something that will really help the area.

  • ChefnSurf says:

    Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say “non-voters”. Also, gigantic kudos to the local Republican party for not even fielding a candidate for mayor. Great job!

    Now it’s time to pay the piper. You haven’t just re-given them the keys to the city; you’ve emboldened them to also take the keys to the bank vault. Let the insider real-estate deals continue! Two days after the election and it’s back to business as usual. It just doesn’t get any more bent than that. The “voters” have reassured them that the worst thing that could happen to them if they continue along their pathway of personal gain again, and they are, is that they’ll get re-elected.

    There should be new road signs upon entering Wilmington that read” “Welcome to Wilmington! We’re masochists and we wallow in it!” and beneath that, a new logo showing a hand reaching into a pot of gold.

  • Rick Wilson says:

    I wonder why none of the candidates let the public know this was in the works before the election? Forget the fact the firefighters and others are underpaid when compared to other local area departments. Forget the fact that the “bosses” are overpaid when compared to other local area departments. The Mayor and Council are going to continue to waste massive amounts of money on “pet projects” that benefit themselves and their friends while the city crumbles down around them. No one is going to want to re-locate or start up a business in an area that has “Shootouts at the OK Corral” on a daily basis. Cleaning up the gangs should be the top priority, not spending money to build a park for the gangs to terrorize………..The politicians received a mandate from the voters……do whatever you want, we will re-elect you no matter what.

  • Guest2020 says:

    What a shame. What a waste. Outside of the family and friends I have left in Wilmington, I don’t care what happens to the rest of you. You brought this on yourselves. When your bank balance decreases because of the taxes increasing, don’t come crying. You are responsible.

  • Skip Watkins says:

    Okay Wilmington, I ran and I barely missed the winner’s circle. Then 2 days….yes 2 days after the election Council announces another waste of your taxpayer dollars by not only purchasing land but removing it from future development/tax rolls. Is this too coincidental? No it is collusion. The voters allowed the Baseball Stadium Council to do it again.

    Mr O’Grady touted several times that the PPD Building was equal to 150 homes in its tax bill impact. I say this park is too far removed to walk to other local attractions especially in our crime ridden city of underpaid firemen and police officers.

    It is time to arise again and tell council no.

    Skip Watkins for City Council 2015

  • Rick Wilson says:

    Does anyone know who the real estate agent is on this proposed deal?

  • guesty says:

    If it was $affo’s company somehow in the deal.

  • GuestofWind says:

    This city leadership could care less about bringing decent paying jobs to the area. They could care less about the public safety, they don’t pay police and firefighters a decent living wage. No what they are after is keeping their social status as the ruling class of Wilmington. The preferred treatment of their families and friends at the cocktail parties and Airlie Gardens events. They love having buildings named after them, for all the years of ‘hard work’ they have done for the community. Local politicians are more concerned with building their legacy than for the betterment of the community. Just what have they brought to the community? Over-development of land, tax payer funded projects that do not better the community, the new downtown (the land of bars, crime and parking decks). There is no working middle class here, just poor and struggling, and the wealthy who have a lock down on opportunity and land. The only somewhat of middle class here is all the retired transplants whose pensions and benefits from Union jobs enable them to live here. They are interested in beach trips and golf, not building a better community. So the people get exactly what they vote for, the same old same old.

  • Living Wage says:

    I guess this should be called “Living Wage Park”? Let me get this straight, the city didn’t have enough money to deal properly with employees causing excess turnover and massive shortages at the PD, but we have millions for a park? Your safety is not their priority. It was also nice that they waited until after the elections to tell the public of this expenditure. WWAY, see who profits from this deal, please. Follow the money, and that will tell the tale.

  • NHHS Wildcat says:

    Amen to Living Wage. Looking at the other articles on the website tonight: Gangs threatening the police, officers having to defend themselves with deadly force and all the fat cat city leaders want to do for first order of business is spend millions on a park and not on you dedicated officers battling the vermin on the street. Didn’t they report to council last year that 5 mil would get city employees where they should be. Shame on you politicians. Putting dirt and grass ahead of our local heroes.

  • Mr.T says:

    Batter-up !!!!!

  • Vote No! says:

    Really!….Are we going to have to do this again?

  • frontpaige says:

    Do the taxpayers want our City Council to buy expensive private property with their tax money, to build developments the Council envisions? These taxpayer funded developments will also be subsidized and maintained by more taxpayer money. Keep these properties on the tax rolls, bringing in tax money instead of spending it. Let private enterprise foot the bill and grow our economy. OPEN SPACE? We need more PPD’s, more desirable housing, and more commercial enterprise.

  • guest45 says:

    Judging from the fact your mayor ran unopposed and yaw kept the same fox’s overlooking the hen house I would say that your leadership has been emboldened to think they can do as they please and spend as they please, kinda like what we are seeing out of Washington.

  • Guest2929 says:

    So, a “passive” park that’s way out of walking distance for anyone?

  • Rick Wilson says:

    This is just a smokescreen in the process to acquire land for a baseball stadium. Buy the land without a vote of the people and then build a ballpark without a vote from the people. The Mayor and his band of public money thieves have learned their lessons well……with the Mayor running unopposed and all 3 council members up for re-election being re-elected, they now feel they can do anything. The next taxpayer funded stadium to come along will be built without the people being able to vote on it. And……why not, they will be re-elected no matter what they do.

  • Guest2234 says:

    Since there are so many attractions within walking distance of this area I’m sure it would be a great success. For drug deals and prostitution. This land would be better off it was densely developed with mixed use leaving a small portion as a park.

    If Any large park goes here it should have a soccer or football field. Something that would attract families during the day on weekends and boost business downtown.

  • guest7969 says:

    DESERVE every thing they get…YOU left them in power

  • guesty says:

    If either you were too busy to vote or voted for the same problems to be re-elected, shut your pie hole. This is what you get.

  • Sam B says:

    So, they don’t have money to upgrade roads or fix long standing traffic issues, especially around schools, college road, etc., have not done anything to address crime, homelessness or create real jobs for local residents but they can spend money for a park because of a few Richie- rich decided it would be nice. We don’t need more PPD’s who limit their hires to people they know or bring in because of previous experience in the pharmaceutical field. We need business who see transferable skills and offer the utilization of every skill- businesses that offer everyone at every level of education the ability to become economically independent. By the way, when they claim the public asked for it in their plans that is a sham. They have these community meetings for plans but the decision is already made. When the committees are chosen they are hand-picked because someone on council knows them and it is usually someone looking to move into some political role and not necessarily someone with new ideas or someone who is interested in making a difference for the entire community. They shift the emphasis in their favor and the general public saps who attend actually think they are being listened to. Think about it- who writes the plans?
    PS – If we have to have something- A soccer field or football field is not going to attract as much business downtown as an arena for real concerts, outdoor movies, etc. Why can’t we get something like the Koka Booth Amphitheatre ( It is a great family outing. It would definitely attract tourists. Of course they would need more than 7 acers.

  • SurfCityTom says:

    photos or video recordings of one or more city officials. But with whom or what?

    If they put as much effort into making the city a pro-business city as they seem to invest on Schoninger’s behalf, there would be no need for this; private sector would determine if this is a good opportunity.

    Never has so much effort gone into circumventing the will of the taxpayers.

    The taxpayer funded ballpark was shut down at the polls; who cares; the city leaders will find another means to shove the albatross down the taxpayers’ gullets.

    Voter apathy certainly fueled this announcement.

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