© 2023 254 North Front Street, Suite 300, Wilmington, NC 28401 | 910.343.1640
News Classical 91.3 Wilmington 92.7 Wilmington 96.7 Southport
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
WHQR's streaming is working intermittently. We are working on resolving the issue, and we apologize for the inconvenience

Penthouse Problems: City leaders discuss move to former Thermo Fisher building, plans to occupy top floors

The ThermoFisher building, formerly the PPD headquarters.
Benjamin Schachtman
The ThermoFisher building, formerly the PPD headquarters.

The city has closed on the 12-story office building, but some councilmembers disagree about which floors to use.

Find the original report from WECT here.

The City of Wilmington has started the process of moving city offices to the former Thermo Fisher building downtown. The 12-story building is the tallest in the city’s skyline.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, members voted unanimously to allow the city to contract with a company called LS3P Associates. The architectural services company will help plan the layout of the building to help the city prepare to move in.

A city spokesperson says LS3P recommended the move its operations to floors 1, 3, 10, 11, and 12. The recommendation comes from an analysis that prioritized public access to city services, minimizing costs for up-fitting office space, and maximizing collaboration between city departments.

Deputy City Manager Chad McEwen says those floors would be an option for the city to move into the building as quickly as possible, adding that other floors could require more preparation and up-fitting costs.

Councilmen Clifford Barnett and Charlie Rivenbark, Mayor Pro-tem Margaret Haynes, and Mayor Bill Saffo, agree that the city should take the highest floors of the building, but councilmembers Luke Waddell and Neil Anderson disagree.

“I would be wherever we could move into immediately,” said Saffo. “I don’t think we need to be spending any additional funds for space that is already ready to go with office furnishings already there.”

Waddell says the city should leave the top floors open for other tenants because of the opportunity for a higher amount of income from a lease.

“I have a fundamental issue with city government occupying what’s arguably the most marketable, desirable, commercial space in the city of Wilmington,” Waddell said. “I think it could be a phenomenal economic development driver to potentially bring businesses that are not currently in Wilmington.”

Rivenbark says the city deserves to take the penthouse floors of the building.

“I’m not going to apologize to anybody for going first class,” Rivenbark said. “We deserve it. We’ve struck a deal for the taxpayers of this community that is beyond belief.”

The city spent $68 million to buy the building in July, and plans to sell nearby pieces of land and current city buildings to help offset some of the cost.

“Repurposing this office campus represents $55 million in cost savings to taxpayers over construction alternatives to meet critical needs for downtown parking and city operations space, and we were able to purchase it without a tax increase,” said Saffo. “The city will continue to show that same commitment to fiscal discipline as it transitions operations into the building. Architectural consultants were asked to develop a plan to occupy the building with the lowest price tag to taxpayers and the most efficient use of building space, and the majority of Council agrees with that approach.”

Waddell believes the city could benefit from keeping its operation on the lowest floors of the building.

“The building itself is first class,” said Waddell. “And it represents, you know, where the city is and where we’re going. And I think we’re lucky and grateful to the taxpayers who could fund and pay for this building.”

Thermo Fisher has agreed to lease two floors of the building from the city for at least three years.

Republished with permission. Copyright 2023 WECT. All rights reserved.

Zach joined the WECT team in January 2021 as a reporter and weekend anchor.

Originally from Montvale, New Jersey, Zach attended the University of Maryland and graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. While in college, Zach interned at SiriusXM and reported for UMD’s Capital News Service, covering stories in and around Washington, D.C.

Zach’s passion for local news coverage has led him here to Wilmington. He looks forward to learning, making new connections, and telling important stories.

Outside of the newsroom, Zach enjoys cooking, watching sports, and playing in a Wiffle Ball league with his friends.

Have a story idea? You can email Zach at Zach.Solon@wect.com and find him on Twitter @zachsolon or Facebook @ZachSolonWECT