Editorial: Study Of Redeveloping County Properties In Downtown Wilmington

By / Editorials / Wednesday, 01 February 2017 05:00

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners recently approved funding for a feasibility study of redeveloping three acres of county-owned property in downtown Wilmington in a manner that preserves the existing county-uses with private development interests for mixed-use commercial and residential units.
(See report on page 1-A)

The properties cover 3-acres of land bordered by Chestnut Street, 2nd Street, and Grace Street. The site is approximately 3-acres in size and public uses on the site include the Central Library, Story Park, an EMS facility, a 650-space parking deck, and three surface parking lots. The Register of Deeds was located there prior to moving to the 320 Chestnut Building and the former building is now vacant. The Main Library is old.

According to Jessica Loeper, Communications and Outreach Coordinator for the County, Belk department store opened at 201 Chestnut Street on August 30, 1951. The building was purchased by the county in October of 1978. Belk moved out on July 24, 1979 and re-opened at Independence Mall on August 1, 1979. And on May 15,  1981, the building was formally dedicated as the New Hanover County Public Library.

Harry Tuchmayer , Director of the New Hanover County Public Library, said the building, "Was designed for a library that doesn't exist today. It's a very different system. Clearly we would want to highlight the kinds of things we are seeing downtown. We've got great possibilities for improving and expanding childrens space and the local history space. Things like the core collection, our administrative offices and functions that serve our outreach programs, they could be housed at any of our locations and provide better or even better services."

The feasibility study will obviously return with recommendations on how to redevelop the property likely in a public-private partnership between the County and a developer.

The Library is the primary amenity in the block and should be rebuilt to meet today's current library technologies. Even if that means a smaller building, it should not equate to a reduction in the level of service it currently provides. It should lead to an increase in level of service. An increase in the tax base should be a secondary concern.

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