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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

New Hanover County commissioners unanimously approve $12-million building purchase for CFCC

CFCC President Jim Morton addresses the New Hanover County board of commissioners.
Benjamin Schachtman
CFCC President Jim Morton addresses the New Hanover County board of commissioners.

The purchase is part of a planned nursing student pipeline. It does not include at least $14 million needed to renovate the building.

At last night’s meeting, New Hanover Commissioners approved the nearly $12-million-dollar purchase of the former Bank of America building in downtown Wilmington.

The property was purchased on behalf of Cape Fear Community College, in order to expand their nursing program. That's according to a presentation delivered by college president Jim Morton.

Related: NHC considering $12 million purchase of former Bank of America building for CFCC nursing program expansion

Developer Brian Eckel also addressed commissioners, telling them he put the building under contract in the hopes that the county would take over the purchase deal.

Eckel noted he started the acquisition process after long-running conversations about building a nursing-student pipeline with the college, UNCW, and Novant Health. He said that Novant had contributed $2 million dollars to the project, and that other stakeholders would support it as well. During a series of questions from Commissioner Rob Zapple, President Morton also indicated that the state could eventually help support the expanded nursing program.

Staff confirmed that they have not had the Bank of America building independently appraised, which governments often do before purchasing property. Nor have staff developed a concrete estimate of how much it will cost to renovate and upfit the 50,000-square-foot building to serve as lab and classroom space.

Monday's vote does not authorize funding for building work, only the property purchase — which will be debt-financed. According to the county, a future amendment vote will be required to increase the capital project's total budget.

But these questions did not deter commissioners, who unanimously approved the purchase. The sale will still have to clear a due-diligence phase – and it will need approval from the Local Government Commission. That’s an agency under State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s office, which has been critical of past New Hanover projects, including the hospital sale, the government center redevelopment, and Project Grace.

*Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify the financing of the purchase and future renovation work on the Bank of America building.