By Terry Lane
Despite concerns from an audience of residents worried about the traffic impacts, the Wilmington City Council approved a 45-acre mixed-use project on Military Cutoff Road that will feature apartments, retail and office space and a cornerstone signature hotel.
While several residents expressed concern over a report that “The Avenue,” a proposed project by the Greensboro-based Carroll Companies, would bring 16,000 daily two-way trips to Military Cutoff Road, the developers said told the council that they would fund $2.5 million in traffic upgrades to facilitate the development.
The council approved both a rezoning of the project’s site, located between McCumber Station Road and Arboretum Drive on Military Cutoff Road, and a special use permit to allow an additional 20 feet in building height. The council approved the rezoning by a 5-2 vote, with council members Kevin O’Grady and Paul Lawler voting against it, and approved the special use permit by a 6-1 vote.
“It’s a good project, I wish we could have it in Wilmington. We just can’t have it in this location,” said O’Grady, echoing resident’s concerns over increased traffic.
The proposal includes 525 apartments, a 231-room hotel, 140,700 square-feet of office space, 115,000 square feet of retail space, and 16,000 square feet of restaurant space.
While the project will likely help economic development and tourism, the “limited access will result in a large amount of traffic added to one of our major road corridors,” the city’s planning staff told the council.
However, the proposed road improvements could improve traffic, developers said. The traffic upgrades would include an additional lane on portions of the road, improved crosswalks and an additional stop light.
The engineers also said its traffic impact takes into account other projects planned in the area, including the $250-million CenterPoint project proposed by Swain & Associates near the intersection of Military Cutoff and Eastwood roads.
The approval comes after the developers withdrew their proposal from the city’s planning commission in 2017 following a poor reception from the council. From that experience, they retooled their proposal to reduce traffic and improve the potential tenants at the development, according to Livian Jones, a local representative for the Carroll Companies.
The revised plan will produce 26-30 percent less traffic that previously proposed, engineer John Davenport said.
The businesses selected for the development are also planned to limit its traffic impact, as engineers adding there will be no high-traffic impact businesses like gas stations, convenience stores drive-through restaurants and grocery stores.
The commitment of the Westin Hotel will support long-term economic growth in the area, developers said.
“The type of development that will support the capacity to draw top talent here,” Jones said.