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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

City of Wilmington moves forward with evaluation of Thermo Fisher building purchase

This image shows the Thermo Fisher building and two adjoining land tracts in consideration for purchase by the City of Wilmington.
City of Wilmington
This image shows the Thermo Fisher building and two adjoining land tracts in consideration for purchase by the City of Wilmington.

Wilmington City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to put a refundable $500,000 deposit towards purchasing the building downtown, plus $250,000 towards evaluating the potential deal.

The 12.5-acre campus includes over 1,500 parking spaces and 370,000 square feet of office space in a 12-story building, the tallest in the county.

Councilmember Clifford Barnett said it was a great opportunity.

"I think it’s something 50 years down the line, my grandkids will say, 'God, Dad, you did a good job,'” he said.

The city now has 120 days to consider the pros and cons of making the $68 million purchase of the building. After that, the city can move ahead with the purchase or take a full refund of its deposit.

Council also approved spending $250,000 separate from the deposit to evaluate the deal with appraisals, a building condition assessment, and legal counsel to consider potential debt.

Council asked how quickly current properties could be sold to offset purchase costs if the deal went forward. City Manager Tony Caudle said the city has already received inquiries about current properties, but a clear answer will require more staff analysis.

He said “at worst,” the newly vacated properties could be theoretically sold within a year of the move, and staff would need a while to prepare for the move anyways.

Staff said the purchase would allow many departments to consolidate into one building and could avoid costly repairs for current properties. It could also open up more parking.

The purchase would also include two adjoining tracts of land, which could be sold or developed to boost revitalization efforts in the area.

The city would also rent out some of the space in the building to new tenants, and Thermo Fisher would lease a portion of the building for at least three years.

The deal will also need approval from the Local Government Commission, part of the North Carolina State Treasurer's office that reviews major purchases by municipalities and counties.

Grace is a multimedia journalist recently graduated from American University. She's attracted to issues of inequity and her reporting has spanned racial disparities in healthcare, immigration detention and college culture. In the past, she's investigated ICE detainee deaths at the Investigative Reporting Workshop, worked on an award-winning investigative podcast, and produced student-led video stories.