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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

New Hanover County commissioners will again consider development on Cape Fear River's western bank

The proposed development Battleship Point to be built at Point Peter.
Courtesy of KFJ Development Group
The proposed development Battleship Point to be built at Point Peter.

Much of the conversation has centered around Battleship Point, a half-billion-dollar development proposed for Point Peter, located just north of the Battleship North Carolina.

Next month, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners will revisit developing the western bank of the Cape Fear River.

Commissioners will consider changing land-use rules for development across the water from downtown Wilmington. Much of that debate has centered around Battleship Point, a proposed development just north of the Battleship North Carolina, which would include three 240-foot buildings.

Related: Deep Dive: The challenges and concerns facing the $500-million Battleship Point project

Developers argue the project can be completed sustainably and will stimulate considerable economic growth in the region. Critics have voiced concerns about flooding, respect for the location’s cultural history, and the impact on the skyline — noting the proposal is nearly 50 feet taller than the former PPD headquarters, the tallest building in Wilmington.

Developers say the project will only be financially viable if officials increase the height allowance from 75 feet to 240. But even though that height is permitted in nearby areas — including a district further upriver, just south of the Isabel Holmes bridge — it’s not clear if commissioners are willing to go that high for this specific project in this particular area.

Related: NHC extends talks of west bank vision, developers say they were silenced (Port City Daily)

It's less clear if changes to the county's land use codes would affect the Wilmington Hotel and Spa project, which had been proposed for the land just south of the Battleship on Eagles Island. The project appears to have stalled out after being submitted to the county's technical review committee late last year.

The developer is now considering a sale to the Unique Places to Save (UP2S) non-profit conservationist group. The organization, which hopes to preserve the land as part of an effort to create a nature park on Eagles Island, has put $100,000 at risk to secure the sale — butstill needs to raise nearly $16 million dollars to complete it.

If the conservation effort fails, the developer is likely to find an alternative project. The hotel and space plan was what's called a 'by-right' development, meaning it could be built as proposed without any rezoning necessary. So, changes to the county code aren't a direct impediment to building on the land — although increases in allowable density could change the financial dynamics.

Commissioners last met in late March to workshop the issue, but didn’t finalize any decisions. They’ll meet again on August 18 at 2 p.m. to continue the discussion. According to the county, "[t]he work session will allow the Board of Commissioner to consider and discuss information that staff will be providing about different development scenarios in this area, including tradeoffs and alignment with current policies, and potential next steps."

Any changes to the county's land use rules would require public hearings and public comment opportunities.

The meeting will be available to the public and media live on NHCTV at Spectrum Cable channel 13, NHCTV.com, and YouTube.com/NewHanoverCo.