Posted on: August 2, 2023
Project Grace Update: Revised development agreement includes $4.6 million in cost savings
The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will be considering an amended development agreement with Cape Fear Development for the county-owned block in downtown Wilmington, referred to as Project Grace, at its next meeting on Monday, August 7.
The proposed amended agreement outlines a net cost savings of approximately $4.6 million from the initial development agreement approved in May of this year. Under the amended agreement, the revised guaranteed maximum price will not exceed $55,942,679 for the construction of the new library and Cape Fear Museum facility, inclusive of parking deck improvements and the development fee.
The Board of Commissioners initially approved an agreement with Cape Fear Development in May, and then staff worked with the development team to finalize the design plans, and the project was sent out in a competitive bid process. The work to update the drawings with selected value engineered options, extensive outreach to bidders – inclusive of MWBE outreach, and vendor solicitation efforts were successful and have yielded significant savings for the county.
As a reminder, this project includes the construction of a new, 95,000 square foot purpose-built, modern county museum and library facility that will co-locate these two important assets and create added opportunities for the community and visitors to engage with learning and exploration in the heart of downtown. The library will feature a modern design with natural light, dedicated spaces for kids, youth and adults, an enhanced local history room, and additional interactive and group study spaces. The new, state-of-the-art Cape Fear Museum will feature a domed theater planetarium, additional opportunities for traveling exhibits, and three floors of interactive exhibits that take visitors through the history of the region, why science matters, opportunities to learn about the nature around us, and play spaces for children to learn and have fun. Shared spaces and partnerships between the museum and library will also create more opportunities for programs and be a community destination for collaboration.
As outlined in the development agreement, once the construction of this public facility is complete, the developer will then purchase the southern portion of the site for the fully appraised value (at no less than $3.5 million) to create private mixed-use development that will further benefit the downtown community and economic growth.
At Monday’s meeting, Commissioners will determine whether to move forward with the amended agreement. If approved, staff will then apply to the Local Government Commission to be heard at its September meeting for the debt issuance to construct the public facility.
This strategic cost reduction and planning demonstrate New Hanover County’s efficient use of public funds and continuous commitment to the economic sustainability of Project Grace, and its vision to enhance the cultural and community benefits of Downtown Wilmington.
The August 7 meeting of the Board of Commissioners will be held at 4 p.m. at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse, 24 North Third St., Room 301, and will be available to watch live on NHCTV at Spectrum Cable channel 13, NHCTV.com, or YouTube.com/NewHanoverCo. A public hearing will not be held on August 7, but – if approved by Commissioners – a hearing for public comments on the debt issuance will be held at the board’s August 21 meeting at 9 a.m.
Learn more about Project Grace at NHCgov.com/project-grace.