Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, MOI projects move forward

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The Wrightsville Beach Planning Board on Tuesday advanced two proposed projects on properties that have long been noted as blights on the town’s commercial district. The board unanimously approved both a residential duplex development for the vacant lot besides Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and a plan to demolish the “Middle of the Island” building for parking on Old Causeway Drive.

Both properties have been underused or vacant for more than a decade and have often been described as “eyesores” by town leaders and residents alike. Approval by the planning board will send both projects to the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen for a vote.

The town’s planning board approved the proposed “Atlantic View” project at 19 East Salisbury Street, in the .1 acre empty lot next to Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, after the developers returned with changes requested by the board when it rejected the project on Aug. 1. Developers returned Tuesday after redesigning the project that started as 11 residential duplexes, converting 10 percent of it to commercial space, which could be a restaurant or other retail shops.

The duplexes currently under construction on Greensboro Street bear a similar design to the 10 proposed for the Atlantic View project.

While some board members said that they would have liked to see more commercial space included in the project, they acknowledged the developers work to upgrade the design to add the potential for retail.

“I’m upset it’s only 10 percent , but the commercial portion does make it palatable,” board member David Culp said.

Several community members spoke to support the project, led by David Monahan, owner of the Causeway Cafe.

“Commercial development on the beach is a dream that will never happen,” he said. “They’re bringing in a beautiful project that will improve the north end of the beach.”

While she said the project was appealing, Sue Bulluck of the Wrightsville Beach Chamber of Commerce warned that reducing the town’s commercial base could have negative consequences on efforts to secure beach renourishment funding.

Meanwhile, the board also approved a pair of measures that will let the owners of Poe’s Tavern on Old Causeway Drive demolish the neighboring MOI building, which has been vacant for more than a decade. The area would be used for a parking lot for use for Poe’s Tavern diners. However, the properties will remain separate and the restaurant’s owners could use the land to host another commercial structure.

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