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


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.

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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.

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