County To Seek Partnership To Redevelop Government Center

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at their August 12th, meeting to seek a public-private partnership to redevelop the property for County operations, commercial and residential uses. The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution at their August 12th, meeting to seek a public-private partnership to redevelop the property for County operations, commercial and residential uses.

County To Seek Partnership To Redevelop Government Center Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 13 August 2019 15:45

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a resolution to seek a public-private partnership for redevelopment of the Government Center property during their Monday August 12th meeting.

According to Tim Burgess, Deputy County Manager, "The Government Center, located at 230 Government Center Drive, was originally constructed as a shopping center in 1989. The building was acquired and renovated by New Hanover County beginning in 2002. Acquisition and renovation costs totaled $18.6 million dollars. The current facility is approximately half way through its useful life and will require $20.3 million in repairs and upgrades over the next twenty  years."

Burgess explained, "A critical need exists for a purpose designed county administration building fully compliant with current building codes, functionality, public safety, storm resiliency, maintenance needs, and designed to be customer-centered and customer-focused. A public private partnership capital project would facilitate construction of a new county government center together with private residential and commercial development. The critical needs would be met whilst additional benefits of maximizing use of underdeveloped property and generating tax revenue would be realized."

The county will send out an RFQ (Request for Qualifications) for a public-private partnership to design and build a new government center on the current property including private developments that may include commercial, business and residential uses.

If redevelopment occurs, current County operations in the existing building would continue uninterrupted until a new building is completed and County offices can relocate into the new location.

According to County officials, "The Government Center was originally constructed as a shopping center in 1989 and the county bought and renovated the building beginning in 2002. It is currently located in a Federal Opportunity Zone, which is a community investment tool to encourage long-term investments by providing tax incentives for qualified investors."

County Manager Chris Coudriet explained, "The county has done a good job of retrofitting the space for our use, but there are inefficiencies and unused space that exists," and, "From a business perspective, it’s important to explore the possibility of a new building that is designed specifically for our needs, with the opportunity to add new development to the site. This would bring tax revenue to the county, and help us create an administrative building designed around service to our customers."

The existing structure is 136,654 square feet of which more than 30,000 square feet are not utilized and will require costly maintenance and repairs over the next 30 years.

Coudriet explained, "A building designed for the county’s needs today and in the future would be energy efficient, maximize facility usage and space, be resilient and able to withstand storms, incorporate greater public safety systems, and would save the county money in the long run."

Once the RFQ's are sent out, responses will be due in the fall of this year. After those are received from development corporations, the County will conduct an internal review of the proposals. If that review identifies a qualified development company, the Board of Commissioners will consider whether or not to proceed and direct the County Manager and staff to begin negotiating with a company in November or December.

If a development agreement is reached, the Commissioners would hold a public hearing and vote to approve or decline such an agreement.

Sara Warmuth, Property Management Director, explained the County is half way through the 60 year life expectancy of a commercial building and they estimate the current property will require and investment of $20.3 million dollars over the next 20 years in its current capacity to address issues like parking, heating and air, replacing the roof in 2026, carpeting, replacing doors, ceilings and other amenities.

Burgess explained, "This building was built not for governmental operations, but it was built for retail back in 1989. It has served the customers extremely well, the County did a very good job when they adapted it for County use, but there are limitations on what we can do with this building. For instance, if you enter the building, no matter where you enter the building at there is a long walk for our customers to go where ever their final destination is and no matter what signage we put up it is very difficult for our customers to find where they are looking to go."

A public private partnership would allow private development on County property and generate tax revenues that are not currently realized since the property is owned entirely by the County.

He explained, "This is a very under developed property. We've got 137,000 square feet that is all on one level. With a new County Administration Office Building we could put it on multiple levels so the footprint would be much less so there would be much more space to develop by the private sector."

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