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CoastLine: Project Grace

New Hanover County
Aerial view of Project Grace block in downtown Wilmington

Project Grace.  Some hear that term and imagine an exciting evolution of Wilmington’s downtown area – bringing together cultural attractions – such as the Cape Fear Museum, shopping, the library, affordable housing in a market that desperately needs it.  Done properly, it could turn downtown into a more of a destination for locals and tourists.

Those opposed to the project worry about the loss of two historically valuable buildings and the environmental impact of demolition and construction.  They criticize the economics of tearing down a building owned outright by the county - so the county can then pay to build another one.

Project Grace encompasses an entire city block in downtown Wilmington.  The buildings in question are owned by New Hanover County.  On this edition of CoastLine, we find out why some say the process hasn’t been as transparent as they’d like it to be – though the county says every single public comment goes in the record and straight to the Board of Commissioners – who will ultimately decide whether to move it forward.  We also attempt to separate hyperbole from fact.

New Hanover County Commissioners will vote on whether to move forward with the negotiation process on Monday, April 1st at the Board meeting -- which gets underway at 4 PM at the New Hanover County Historic Courthouse.  

There are no public hearings scheduled for the project.    


Jennifer Rigby is Strategy and Policy Coordinator for New Hanover County. 

Glenn Harbeck is Director of Planning, Development and Transportation for the City of Wilmington. 

Beth Rutledge is Executive Director of Historic Wilmington Foundation.

Project Grace Frequently Asked Questions -- New Hanover County:


Emails from listeners we couldn't get to during the on-air discussion:

Hap writes:

If this is such a “great” project in the county’s view, how do the dollars line up? Is it going to cost the taxpayers or is it going to pay for itself in the long run?

Jim writes:

I am in favor of a new state-of-the-art downtown public library, whether by renovation or complete "do-over".

However, I am NOT in favor of moving the Cape Fear Museum.  In fact, that museum should be expanded to include new Art and Information about the 1898 "coup d'etat".

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.
Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR