WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — More than two years after the idea first came about, Project Grace is closer to becoming a reality. Tuesday night, the public got to hear from the developer and share their thoughts and concerns with county staff.
The meeting received mixed reaction. Some there were learning about the plan for the first time. Some think the proposal has improved since it was first introduced. And others think the whole thing is unnecessary and irresponsible.
In July 2017, New Hanover County announced a plan to create Project Grace. It would mean remodeling the entire block between 2nd and 3rd streets and between Chestnut and Grace streets.
Community reception has been lukewarm. Now the county wants to address some of those concerns before moving forward.
“How it’s changed is that we have a little more visual idea, more optics of how the project could actually develop out,” said New Hanover County manager Chris Coudriet.
The public was invited to the Cape Fear Museum Tuesday night for the first of two meetings, designed to bring them up to speed on the latest proposal, and answer questions.
“The previous proposal involved shutting down the library for an indeterminate period of time while construction was in progress,” said resident David Buckless. “This proposal has a plan for maintaining the library accessible to the county, which is a big improvement.”
But not everyone was convinced.
“The presentation that I saw seemed to look like a lot of apartment buildings with not a lot of parking, no affordable housing mentioned at all, and the old buildings were just completely disregarded. It was as if they were not even considered,” said Beth Rutledge, executive director of the Wilmington Historic Foundation.
“We have so many retail, apartments, and office spaces downtown that are standing empty right now today. You can just drive down through downtown, you see lots of empty space,” said Phoebe Bragg, president of Residents of Old Wilmington.
“I was wondering whether it would be possible that we could perhaps set aside a certain portion of the units, maybe two percent, for individuals who work full time in service professions, such as police officers, firefighters, and teachers,” said Samira Davis, a real estate agent.
Attendees could fill out comment cards that will be passed along to county commissioners and the developer.
Coudriet says the board could vote on the proposal as early as April. He has also said that none of the money to fund the project would come from taxes.
If you would like to share your concerns, there will be another meeting Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the downtown library in the Hanover Room.