Vote on Water Street parking deck proposal postponed

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Attendees at Wilmington City Council’s Tuesday, March 18 meeting experienced the first brush with increased security measures as Wilmington Police Department officers operated metal detectors and checked bags upon entry. 

After input from the public and concerns voiced by members of Wilmington City Council, a vote on the recommended redevelopment of the Water Street parking deck was postponed. 

Michael Lemanski, University of North Carolina School of Government director of development finance initiative, said the organization would keep the same recommendation presented to city council in February for two mixed-use buildings on the site. 

Lemanksi’s organization and the city posted a public input survey on the proposed development from Feb. 19 to March 13, which garnered a total of 206 responses. Of those responses a majority of the responders listed their zip code as downtown or the areas immediately surrounding downtown. 

Overall, a majority of responders rated the plan for residential and retail uses with onsite parking as favorable, and half agreed with the proposal to include 625-650 parking spaces to be split evenly between private and public parking. 

However, when asked whether the city should amend zoning ordinances to allow a taller structure than what is currently allowed, 44 percent of responders said no and 31 percent said maybe. 

Lemanski said many of the negative comments voiced pertained to the height of the two recommended buildings at 13 and 15 stories, but removing one floor of parking and residential units would possibly reduce the development’s economic impact by $1.35 million. 

Although there was no public hearing about the recommendation during Tuesday night’s meeting, a handful of downtown residents like Joe Dunton signed up during the public information segment to speak about the deck. 

Dunton said he would be in favor of more public-oriented uses like a museum for the region’s film and television industry, and a park. 

George Edwards, Historic Wilmington Foundation executive director, said the recommended development was not harmonious to the rest of Wilmington’s historic downtown. 

“The Water Street proposal is inappropriate and out of scale,” Edwards said. “We need creative developments and it is not a creative and unique development.”

Lemanski said the recommendation was a viable development for the 1.2-acre lot. 

“We think there is a fundable and financeable project here, but it would be on the low end as something that would attract private investors,” Lemanski said. 

City council decided to postpone a vote on a resolution accepting the recommendation until the May 6 meeting. 

In the meantime, city manager Sterling Cheatham said he would work to schedule a work session for city council members to have more questions answered and to refine the recommendation. 


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