One of three high rise buildings is currently under construction at the corner of Wrightsville Avenue and Canal Drive. It’s hard to miss the steel I-beams even when dashing east on the approach to the Heide Trask Drawbridge toward Wrightsville Beach.
“It’s going to be three beefy buildings out there,” said Jeff Walton, associate planner, community development during a phone interview last month. Walton didn’t initially review The Sidbury but has since inherited the project through attrition.
Splayed across 4.5 acres, the $16- $18-million project design will support 110 residential units and 15,000 square feet of commercial space, Walton said. The building currently under construction, closest to the road, building C, will be 50 feet tall. Its four floors will expand to 55,000 square feet. The ground floor will house The Sidbury’s commercial spaces. The other two buildings will be 5 feet shorter, primarily residential developments, with parking beneath the buildings.
After years of development attempts, The Sidbury plans were finally approved in January 2014.
“We’ve given them the green light to build, baby build,” Walton said. “The only time we would have contact with [the developer]would be if there were any major plan changes that we will need to address or if he calls us in to issue a certificate of occupancy.”
The city’s zoning inspector periodically drives by to ensure tree protection fencing is in place and wetlands are undisturbed Walton said. An engineering inspector will also conduct periodic site visits to check for public improvements.
“Sidewalks, water and sewer lines, stormwater lines — eventually some of that stuff will be accepted for the city to maintain,” Walton said.
The Sidbury takes its name from Dr. J. Buren Sidbury who ran the pediatrics and maternity medical facility for more than 50 years.
Baily and Associates has controlled options for the property since the 1990s at a time when the circa 1920s Spanish Colonial hospital structure was intact. Bailey first submitted plans to demolish the building in 2001. In 2002, Wilmington City Council voted to designate the building a local historic landmark and a stay of demolition was issued. The building was torn down the following year after no buyer committed to saving it.
Ten years later, in summer 2013, the few buildings that remained from the former Babies Hospital complex were demolished. Earlier that year, in January, the project was granted a special use permit for the property zoned Office and Industrial during a Wilmington City Council meeting allowing project architect J.C. Woodall a 5-foot increase in building height over the 45 allowed in O&I zones.