New plans for pier area in works

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Supplied photo courtesy of Coastal North Carolina Real Estate, LLC 

The Jetty will be a multi-use, multi-level development on the 1.1-acre lot on East Salisbury Street adjacent to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier. The property extends from the eastern wall of Kings Beachwear to behind Buddy’s Crab House and Oyster Bar, in between Seagull and East Salisbury streets.

Vacant since 2008 when the land was cleared to make way for the The Helm mixed-use project, the new owner of the 1.1 acres adjacent to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier has put a team together to make the development a reality. 

Wilmington resident and local businessman Tom Kievit purchased the land in March 2013 as Coastal N.C. Real Estate, LLC for an undisclosed amount from First Bank of Troy, N.C., after being an investor in The Helm project. 

That project recently received a two-year extension on its approved conditional use permit from the town of Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen in June. Slated for a total of 43,296 heated square feet, The Helm was divided into 18 percent commercial use and the remaining 72 percent to be 23 residential units. 

To reflect the shift in the local real estate market, Cameron Zurbruegg — development partner with Hendon Properties of Atlanta and part of Kievit’s team — said the new development would feature more commercial than residential space. 

“The reason we think it is prudent is because we don’t think there is really a great market for new residential right now and we do think there is pent up demand for commercial,” Zurbruegg said. “All we are trying to do is create more of a commercial node in a fairly obvious commercial area.”

In addition to more commercial space, Zurbruegg said the Salisbury Street frontage would also include office space. The oceanfront side will consist of retail and commercial, and the Seagull Street side would be solely residential. To fill those commercial and retail spaces Zurbruegg said the group would be looking at both local and national businesses. 

While the usage mix may be different from The Helm proposal, Zurbruegg said some of The Helm’s characteristics would be preserved in addition to using the same architect, David Lisle, of Lisle Architecture. 

“We are trying to use the same footprint of The Helm so that the permits don’t need to change and also use materials, from a façade point of view, that would be consistent with the beach community, like The Helm was,” Zurbruegg said. 

With an assessed land value of $4.428 million, Kievet said he hopes the new project — tentatively named The Jetty — will bring a much-needed improvement to that lot and the surrounding areas of Salisbury Street. 

“It is just something that has to get done … [the vacant lot] is just a big eyesore there,” Kievit said. “Wrightsville Beach needs it and the people need it. Not only could the building industry use the work but also I think it could be good for the economy in Wrightsville Beach without any sacrifices.”

The last commercial opportunity to arise for East Salisbury Street was the Joe’s Crab Shack proposal to open in the Johnnie Mercer’s Pier House. While the board of aldermen voted the proposal down citing a lack of parking in the area, Kievit and Zurbruegg said the restaurant chain is still interested in the market. 

“Not only is Joe’s very interested in the market but we are talking to Joe’s about [The Jetty] after their inability to go to the pier,” Zurbruegg said. “We are also talking to other [restaurants] that are suitable for this project, and Wrightsville Beach, in the event that Joe’s decides they are not interested in the market.”

To avoid the parking requirement issues Joe’s encountered, parking for The Jetty will be contained within the actual structure. 

“Everything that we are talking about is conceptual but we are talking about a parking facility that has at least the minimum number of parking spaces required by the town of Wrightsville Beach ordinance for these uses,” Zurbruegg said. “We are effectively wrapping the parking facility with the commercial and residential uses so that you really never see the parking.”

While Zurbruegg and Kievit hope to retain the property’s permits approved by the town and the North Carolina Division of Coastal Management in keeping the same footprint as The Helm, Wrightsville Beach planner Eryn Moller said the change in the usage mix could trigger additional permit requirements. 

“The development that was approved for The Helm can still be built exactly to what was proposed,” Moller said. “For us, if the ratio of commercial to residential changes, then it would have to come back for the conditional use permit.”

Regardless of the permitting situation, Kievit said he is optimistic about the future of the site and his new development team. 

“This is going to be a real showcase for Wrightsville Beach; it is right in the middle and now at least there are some people involved that have a stake in it,” Kievit said. “It is local people trying to make the community better.” 

With no set building plans, Kievit said the team is hoping to present plans to the town of Wrightsville Beach in the beginning of 2014 after the election of the new mayor an members of the board of aldermen. 


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