Changes to the streetscape of Water Street have been the subject of lengthy discussions during recent Wilmington City Council meetings. During a June 16 meeting, council made steps to determine what the street will look like in the near future.
One project coming to Water Street is the reconfiguration of the portion in front of Riverfront Park and the federal courthouse that is often used as space for events like the summer Downtown Sundown concerts.
Three scenarios presented to council were to have no vertical curbs in that stretch of the street with bollards, or vertical posts, every 10 feet along the road to separate street from sidewalk; a flush curb with bollards on the riverfront side only; or maintenance of the current vertical curbs with no changes.
City council gave direction to Richard King, Wilmington director of public services, to have flush curbs on both sides of the street with bollards spaced 16 feet apart along the street edges to create a pavilion setting that would be more open for events.
In a Tuesday, June 24 email, King stated the total estimated cost of the project is $2.9 million with additional work needed for the street’s substructure. King’s department has to submit a construction contract to council for approval in December 2014 and he stated the expected start date would be January 2015. However, King stated the start date would depend on when the U.S. Coast Guard completes its rehabilitation of the riverfront bulkhead in that area.
Just north of the Riverfront Park area, the future of the Water Street Parking Deck could also be decided with the submission of a request for proposals to potential private developers coming soon.
The University of North Carolina School of Government’s Development Finance Initiative group has recommended a public private partnership for the redevelopment of the space with the city owning the estimated 600-650 parking spaces. The city would retain ownership of the land and the parking deck, and pay for the new deck and other site infrastructure improvements that the developer would build. The developer would have to provide the capital necessary to build the private multi-use space.
Building a new parking deck with no multi-use space or allowing the developer to own the land and parking deck notwithstanding, DFI’s recommended option is projected to save the city approximately $10 million in net cash outflow after 30 years.
In addition to the 600-650 parking spaces, the other assumptions of the redevelopment plan approved by city council in May include 175-225 residential units partially wrapping the parking deck, 18,000-22,000 gross square feet of retail space at street level and some form of public space in connection with nearby Bijou Park.
Tuesday, June 24, city public information officer Malissa Talbert said the request for proposals for the redevelopment of the site is not yet complete but the city expects to receive it in early July.