Townhomes by the sea

by Sam Wilson
Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Images courtesy City of Wilmington

Lumina Townhomes, designed by Kersting Architecture, will be in the area between Eastwood Road and Wrightsville Avenue.

One of the few undeveloped parcels remaining in the area between Eastwood Road and Wrightsville Avenue, a tract of open, partially-wooded land behind the Lumina Station shopping center, is on track to become a mixed-use townhome development. 

The proposal calls for the two-story office building to occupy the land bordered by Allens Lane and Wrightsville and Southerland avenues. Five separate buildings would house residential units between Allens Lane, Southerland Avenue and the southwestern boundary of the Lumina Station property.

Representing property owner, Allens Lane Partners, LLC, Jim Wallace, was Josh Mihaly of Mihaly Land Design, PLLC. He compared the new design for Lumina Townhomes IV with the condominiums that were originally planned for the property in 2008.

“It’s more current and more sellable in this current market,” Mihaly said in a telephone interview Aug. 9. “It’s very hard to build and sell condominium buildings for half a million dollars right now. … In the end I think [the current proposal] is a better living environment than a condominium.”

The previous plans called for 8,000 square feet of office space and two condominium buildings containing 42 units. The current plan shrinks the office space to 6,000 square feet and cuts the total housing units down to 22, each with its own two-car garage and driveway.

“The whole idea is to just create a cohesive mixed-use development with walkability to Lumina Station and Lumina Commons, and the surrounding retail and commercial areas,” Mihaly explained. “The architectural design is going to be kind of an edgy, classic coastal cottage, modernized a little bit. … It’s kind of a neat little niche community.”

At the Aug. 7 planning commission hearing, Mihaly explained that the previous plan proposed by Lumina Station’s Joel Tomaselli stalled amidst the economic downturn in 2008. He added that Lumina Townhomes IV retains “the general idea of the original plan,” while responding to parking issues with the original plan by downsizing the residential and office density.

Two neighboring residents voiced concerns about changes to the traffic patterns in the area, but did not speak in opposition to the zoning modification. One of the residents compared the increased traffic with that of the nearby St. Matthew AME Church, while the other was concerned that he would be responsible for road improvements in front of his house on Allens Lane. 

Mihaly assured them Allens Road, currently a dirt road that serves several houses around the site, would be paved from its intersection with Southerland Avenue to the development’s westernmost driveway leading to the road. He also noted that overall traffic is expected to decrease compared with the 2008 plan, which had already been approved.

Mihaly mentioned the previous proposal’s cross-connection, which would have allowed a vehicle entrance to Lumina Station, on the northeast side of the residential parcel.

“At that time we were working directly with the Lumina Station property [owners],” he said. “But in the current condition, we don’t have that flexibility.”

Low-impact development practices will be used in compliance with the City of Wilmington’s Exceptional Design criteria, including pervious pavement throughout the entire project and rain gardens to capture stormwater.

Michael Kersting of Kersting Architecture is responsible for the designs, which in renderings appear to include multiple exterior finishes like masonry, weatherboard and board and batten siding. Other architectural details include second-floor dormered windows, oculi, Arts and Crafts-style window mullions, decorative outdoor lighting fixtures and entrance sidelights. Kersting would not comment on the details, citing unknowns in the permitting and zoning process ahead.

“There are a lot of possibilities with these smaller developments,” Mihaly said, likening the design plans to Inman Park Townhouses, a similar development his company built on Wrightsville Avenue. “It’s an opportunity to create neat little spaces.”

Jim Wallace, also CEO for Intracoastal Realty, said by telephone on Aug. 12 that while he doesn’t want to speak to the specifics of the project, he looks forward to creating “one of the nicest developments in Wilmington.”

“This is what I call a jewel-box site; one of those sites that don’t come along very often,” Wallace said. “Right next to Lumina Station and so close to Wrightsville Beach, it’s unusual to find a property where you can do something nice and residential anymore in these areas. Everything has been already developed. I think that’s the key to it.”

Wallace stated it is “too early to tell” if his company has a tentative timeline for ground-breaking beyond the Sept.14 city council hearing.


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