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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — For years many people have called the Water Street Parking Deck in downtown Wilmington an eyesore. City Council is working to change that, but it might not turn out the way some had wanted.

The city sold the deck in 1997 then bought it back a decade later at a higher price. Now it is looking for ways to maximize the value of the property.

“It looks like it is taking a lot of work and money to keep it up to where it is safe to use, and that’s true,” Councilwoman Laura Padgett said. “That’s why council has made the decision that it really needs to go.”

But not everyone agrees.

“I think we need just a well-maintained parking deck there,” said Lector Bennett, owner of Cape Fear Wine and Beer nearby. “With all the vacant buildings downtown, I don’t think we need another mega structure.”

The city contracted the UNC School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative for $50,000 to develop a plan for the best use of the land; something the city has been trying to do for years.

“If we wanted to do something fast, we would just ask for proposals, which is what we did before,” Padgett said.

Council says it wants to create public connections to the river. While some city leaders have pushed to turn the land into green space, DFI found through market research and meetings with area stakeholders the area would be better suited for residential purposes, a hotel or office space.

Even with a good portion of the parking deck facing the Hilton, Padgett hopes to see some green.

“I hope there will be some gardens planted, or garden type plantings on Chestnut Street,” she said.

DFI expects to wrap up its research by the middle of next year. Then council says it will decide whether to move forward and seek proposals to redevelop the site.

Comment on this Story

  • taxpayer

    for the Mayor’s buddy Chuck…now they spend another $50,000 to contract a study with a group out of Chapel Hill, of all places, to tell them what they should do with this eyesore…which they sold…then bought back at a price higher than they sold it for.

    Is it just me…or does anyone else think the Mayor and City Council has their collective heads up each other’s a$$?

    Another fine example of fiscal mismanagement.

    Elections do have consequences folks.

  • Guest Reply Redux

    Might as well get used to them…as of Nov. 5th…there’s no stopping them now…nor come the next election. Saffo will retire on Social Security as your Mayor.


    $50k to “research” what to do with a falling down structure? A hotel? Really? Put greenspace, an event lawn, and a playground…done..simple Why does City Council continue to waste money on outside agencies to decide the best use..is that not their job. Wilmington, wake up and vote in 2015!!!

  • craig

    I live in down town Wilmington and a grocery store there would be great!! Convenience would be awesome and it would bring a sense of community to our area. Build it and they will come!!

  • taxpayer

    The limited population of downtown will not allow a grocery store, in the convention sense such as a Food Lion, to operate profitably. A bodega, such as those in New York City perhaps, but not a conventional grocery store.

  • Vog46

    Let me pose a question to you.
    Don’t you think that grocery stores (and all retailers for that matter) have dedicated groups of people who study population demographics to determine where they think stores would be successful? Do you think Food Lion went to neighborhood stores as opposed to the GIANT superstore concepts because they thought “Build it and they will come”? Do you think WalMart just decided to build superstores based on a whim?
    Are you THAT naive?
    There’s no grocery stores down town because there’s NOT enough people living there.
    Carolina Farming decided against down town because of the same reason and for lack of distribution building space.

    Down town has some serious issues as does Wilmington in general.
    Do we wish to stay small and maintain that small town feel and charm by keeping older buildings or do we want to grow into a more modern city with a new vibrant down town area? You see the problem with down town building is their historic value. A bar can move into a historic building with very little renovation whereas a business needs to make wholesale changes to most buildings or they need totally new buildings. It is an age old problem of old versus new, historic versus modern, charming and quaint versus bustling and sleek.
    As it stands now down town is flailing.
    So grocery stores won’t come there because they don’t see the population demographics as being supportive of a retail grocery store.


  • ChefnSurf

    Dear Mr Answer Guy,

    My mom didn’t vote recently and now all of those bad people are back onto City Council. My dad burns the hairs out of his nose with a match. Now they’re arguing all the time about which one of them is crazier. Who’s right?



    Dear Bobby,

    Even though there are less painful nose hair solutions, at least there is some purpose in doing it. An easy fix would be to by him a trimmer as a gift. Unfortunately, when it comes to your mom, there just isn’t a quick fix to fix this kind of stupid. What your mom did was just about as dumb as what those bad guys are doing with that parking deck.

    Mr Answer Guy

  • guesty

    …bohica. To be sure.

  • SurfCityTom

    the answer was right before them. Why not get Schoninger and his EB-5 gimmick to invest some of the money they’re getting the City to pay for the “park”?

    Would not take much; then they could market EB-5 opportunities in China and get some Chinese Nationals to each pony up $500,000 for the project and get expedited Green Cards for themselves and all of their family members.

    With the election behind them, I am shocked beyond words that they did not avail themselves of this opportunity to help Mr Schoninger stick it to the city taxpayers again.

  • Guest2020

    They should do something about the horrible roads in Wilmington. My daughter had surgery this morning and driving through Wilmington was pure torture for her.


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