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532 new apartments and 32 tiny homes: The latest from Wilmington City Council

Mark Humphrey

Wilmington City Council has rubber-stamped two major housing projects, kicked another back to the planning commission, and funded an innovative tiny-home community for the homeless.

Eden Village, the planned tiny-home development to house the chronically homeless, will receive a $250,000 grant from the City of Wilmington to cover construction costs.

Council originally voted in the spring to support Eden Village through the sale of surplus property at Optimist Park. But the sale of that property has been delayed, so the project director of Eden Village, Tom Dalton, came to council to ask for help.

“Any money that you give us we put to good use, and the returns for the city will be multiplied many times," Dalton said. "We need your help.”

Council unanimously passed the ordinance granting the $250,000 to Eden Village, and funds from the sale of Optimist Park will now go into the general fund to replenish that funding.

Eden Village is set to break ground this Saturday.

But a few dozen tiny homes aren't the only housing council approved at its Tuesday night meeting.

Two major housing projects received a rubber stamp, bringing more than 500 units of housing to the city.

The first is a 4-story apartment building near UNCW. That development will include nearly 300 apartments, retail space and a parking deck.

The second project is a remodel of the former Budgetel Inn at 49th and Market, which will convert an older, derelict motel into permanent housing.

23 of the 234 apartments will be set as “workforce housing” for at least 15 years, meaning they'll be affordable to people making 80% or less of area median income. For a person living alone, that's $42,720 in Wilmington.

Cindee Wolf, a representative of developer Vivo Living, explained the idea behind the redevelopment.

“Vivo has introduced a solution by converting low demand hotels into micro apartment complexes that are pre furnished and able to provide the same class A amenities as other apartment complexes while retaining the existing hotel amenities like the pool the lounge areas gyms and business centers,” she said. "Meanwhile, pricing to renters is in the lower range because of the compact unit size. And the management can make a project more successful because of the increased number of units."

By remodeling an already existing building, she said, Vivo is able to keep prices naturally low. Similar conversions in other cities cost $900 per unit to rent, with all utilities included, she added.

Vivo Living’s presentation showed significant internal remodel so each room will be equipped with a kitchenette. The developer's website advertises community dinners, large communal spaces, and happy hours for tenants.

While council members questioned the demand for such small units in a location which used to be a nuisance, the rezoning ultimately passed unanimously.

A smaller housing development, of 16 townhomes on Masonboro Loop, received numerous comments from angry neighbors, related to everything from parking to storm water to building height. The proposed development is on a narrow lot of land which was previously zoned for commercial use. It abuts the wealthy Andrews Reach neighborhood, where single-family homes sell for upwards of $500,000.

An earlier iteration of the designs were rejected by the planning board, though city staff approved of them after developers returned with a redesign, including shorter buildings.

Rather than rejecting that development outright, council kicked it back to the planning board to get more advice on whether the storm water plan was sufficient to avoid flooding the neighbors.

Kelly Kenoyer is an Oregonian transplant new to the East Coast. She attended University of Oregon’s School of Journalism as an undergraduate, and later received a Master’s in Journalism from University of Missouri- Columbia. Contact her on Twitter @Kelly_Kenoyer or by email: KKenoyer@whqr.org.