Project Grace

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What's happening with Project Grace?

A new development agreement has been approved with Cape Fear Development for the county-owned block in Downtown Wilmington bounded by Chestnut, Grace, Second and North Third streets, commonly referred to as Project Grace.

The plan for the project will use a public-private partnership model and is designed to create a cultural hub with a modern and efficient Downtown Library and Cape Fear Museum facility, along with improvements to the current parking deck located on the block and new mixed-use residential and commercial development.

What's different this time?

The new development agreement utilizes the same architectural design of the library and museum that was part of the previous agreement, including the location on the northside of the property to ensure continuity of operations for the current library.

The agreement outlines several key terms for the project including: 

  • The cost to the county for construction of the new museum and library, parking deck improvements and development fee is not to exceed $60,524,860. The county will then finance this amount and pay interest over the life the debt. This differs from the previous development model of a lease financing option. 
  • Cape Fear Development will undergo a competitive rebid process for the project, utilizing three subcontractors for each trade, and New Hanover County will engage a third-party construction consultant, who will provide an independent review of the work generated. A construction manager at risk model will be used, to ensure the project can be delivered at or under budget. 
  • Once the new museum and library facility and parking deck improvements are substantially complete, the county will sell the south parcel of the property to Cape Fear Development for mixed-use private development.  
  • Cape Fear Development has committed to pay no less than $3.5 million for the south parcel property. Two appraisals will also be conducted for the property, and Cape Fear Development will pay the higher of the two appraisals if it is more than $3.5 million.  
  • Within 24 months of the land sale, Cape Fear Development will begin construction of a mixed-use development, which may include a combination of commercial and residential space, on the south parcel (where the existing library is located). The private investment will be the greater of $30,125,838 or 25 percent of the cost of construction and renovation of the entire project, and will generate additional property taxes, sales taxes and/or room occupancy taxes for the city and county.  
  • The existing parking deck, once improved, will be shared between the county and Cape Fear Development on mutually agreed-upon terms.

You can view the entire development agreement here and a list of FAQs that provide more detail on the project here and below.

What's next?

The New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved the new development agreement after a public hearing at its May 15 meeting, so Cape Fear Development is moving forward to put the construction project out for bid. A revised development agreement that incorporates the results of the bid process with final financials will be presented to Commissioners for approval in July 2023.

If approved by Commissioners in July, the county would submit the final financial arrangement to the Local Government Commission for review and approval at its September 2023 meeting. Construction on the library and museum facility would then begin shortly after, if approved to move forward.

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