County To Consider Revisions To Government Center Redevelopment Deal

County To Consider Revisions To Government Center Redevelopment Deal

County To Consider Revisions To Government Center Redevelopment Deal Featured

By / Local News / Tuesday, 29 December 2020 04:45

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

NEW HANOVER CTY - The County is revising a public-private partnership agreement originally approved in June 2020 in order to save money on redeveloping the their Government Center currently located in a shopping center built in 1989.
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 at 230 Government Center Drive in Wilmington during their August 12th, 2019 meeting.
The Board of Commissioners approved an agreement in June 2020 with Cape Fear FD Stonewater, LLC.
The County announced Tuesday December 22nd, the agreement has been revised since June and the Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing on the revisions during a January 19th, meeting at 4:00pm.
According to Tim Burgess, Deputy County Manager, "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."
According to Jessica Loeper - Chief Communications Officer for the County  explained, "The agreement has since been revised to reflect a new arrangement where the county would no longer lease the new Government Center facility from the developer, but instead would enter into a twenty-year public debt to finance the construction of the facility. The developer, Cape Fear FD Stonewater, LLC, would continue to manage the construction of both the public and private facilities on the site."
Loeper explained, "In consultation with the Local Government Commission, the county has worked with the developer to update our agreement and change the deal from a lease to a debt for the county,” said Chief Financial Officer Lisa Wurtzbacher. "Interest rates for county borrowings have continued to drop, so the county will issue its own debt and finance the construction for the new Government Center building, and in doing so allow for cost savings for the county and our taxpayers."
The revised agreement decreases the overall project cost from $49 million down to $45.9 million with the County retaining ownership of the land upon which the new Government Center will be developed. The other half of the County property - approximately 7.5 acres of the 15 acre property - would be sold to the private developer for development of mixed-use residential and commercial developments currently appraised at $8.84 per square foot.
The redevelopment will include a newly-designed facility for county offices, including an expanded Emergency Operations and 911 Center, as well as mixed-use commercial and residential, with affordable housing, greenspace, and increased tax revenue for the county and city.
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.
In 2019, 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."
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.
Lisa Wurtzbacher  - County Chief Financial Officer told local radio station WHQR (WHQR.org) the original agreement called for the County to sell half of the property to Stonewater for private development with the County paying Stonewater back for construction of the Government Center over 20 years. Due to lower interest rates amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the
public bond market, the County plans to finance the construction of the Government Center using their own borrowing power and could realize a rate as low as one and a half percent and reducing the cost of the project.
Public comments can be made at the January 19 meeting, with social distancing guidelines followed, or they can be submitted prior to the meeting by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Emailed public comments must be received by 8 a.m. on January 19, 2021 and will be made available to the board during the public hearing.
The Government Center’s project timeline, design, and other information can be found at NHCgov.com/government-center

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