City leaders approve new apartments, retail at vacant movie theater site

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Its doors shut and the large parking lot vacant for more than a decade along Oleander Drive. Now an old movie theater site will undergo a major change.

The Oleander Drive theatre now becomes the newest planned residential development.
In the past these projects have caught backlash. However, businesses we heard from right on its doorstep actually look forward to the new plans.

Now the nearly 9 acre site is ready for 223 apartments to come in. Three 4 story buildings, one including 5,000 plus square feet of retail space, will be the fate of the decade long vacant land.

“Really it’s best case scenario for us,” said Anthony Garguilo who co-manages Tidal Creek Co-Op grocery.”Having a captive audience of 2 to 400 residents right on our door step could be nothing but positive for us.”

Krista Jorgensen and Garguilo co manage the Co-Op that sits in a shopping center along side a Yoga studio and more. The shop moved next to the theatre back when it was operating in the early 2000’s.

“We were just excited to be in a bigger space,” said Jorgensen.

In the years since the theater’s closing, excitement was soon challenged with anticipation.

“Talk of Wal-Marts and storage places. I think even a mega church or something,” said Garguilo.

The developer, Evolve Companies worked with Swain and Associates for the project. Michael Lee represented the company before city council. He pointed out that the Wal-Mart was in the planning stages after completing a traffic impact analysis on the site. He argued that their development showed it would impact the area less than a Wal-Mart.

This project has its share of concerns neighbors brought up..

“Our biggest concern is what’s that going to do to our road. How much more traffic is going to come down our road,” said neighbor Kathy Brunswick who lives along Hawthorne Road near the site.

Lee said before city council that their study showed it would be no more of an impact than what current traffic neighbors see now. The builder also agreed to provide an entrance in the back away from Oleander, to French Road.

For Garguilo and Jorgensen, it’s another outlet and a new opportunity to continue to grow.

“This particular plan is by far the best of anything that we’ve seen in terms of potential neighbors,” said Garguilo.

The project will also include a new traffic light come 2020 at Oleander Drive next to the Co-Op.

Categories: Local, New Hanover