Wilmington Emphasizes Workforce Housing, New Building At Castle Street Site

Apr 12, 2019

Story by: Adam Wagner, posted on StarNews.com

Wilmington’s request for proposals for the former Wave Transit bus depot at 1110 Castle St. provides some clues as to how the city will evaluate plans for the site, with affordable housing and other public purposes making up a quarter of the evaluation.

“Proposals including workforce residential uses are encouraged and are likely to receive preference in consideration,” the city’s request states, adding a 2017 resolution requires city-owned property that will be developed for housing to include workforce — or affordable — housing.

In follow up emails with interested parties, Erris Dunston, the city’s assistant to the city manager for economic development, clarified the city defines workforce housing as that targeted to families or individuals who meet 80 percent of the median household income per HUD data — or $57,760.

Other factors that will be considered as part of the review includes evaluation of the proposed plan and the applicants’ qualification — each of which will make up 30 percent of the review, while the applicants’ financial ability to complete the proposal will be worth 15 percent of the review. The city would also like to see an additional building on the site, and will consider commercial residential and mixed use projects.

Wilmington has tried to find a use for the old bus depot since 2007, when council first offered it to Wilmington Southside Community Development, Inc., a local nonprofit whose plans for the site fell through, in large measure because of a lack of funding.

More than a dozen parties have expressed interest in the Castle Street property, including nonprofits such as Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity and for-profit entities such as Cape Fear Commercial and Cameron Management. Tru Colors, which created a nonprofit in an unsuccessful effort to sway the city to sell it the property directly without considering other proposals by claiming it would serve a public purpose, has also maintained interest.

Friday, the only sound at the site was a tarp flapping in the wind on the roof of one of the former bus garages.

Another element that will be considered in the city’s review is the addition of a third building to the 1.5-acre site, which includes a pair of 8,650-square-foot structures backed up to the edge of the sides of the property near 12th and Castle.

Castle Street is, according to the city’s comprehensive plan, a Main Street, which encourages plans to have entrances along and interact with the street they are on.

“The existing buildings are built to the property line,” the proposal states. “A proposal including adding a building to the site that will provide street activation will be preferred.”

Other questions Dunston answered for interested parties included whether the city has plans of the site — they don’t, but they’re willing to offer applicants access to the site so they can prepare drawings; and whether the city is willing to assume the risk of ensuring a clean site. While the city is not willing to assume that risk, Dunston wrote, it is willing to provide a 2014 environmental report showing environmental contamination has been “administratively resolved.”

The city will also, per the proposal, have an above-ground fuel tank and island canopy on the site’s 11th Street side removed.

According to a timeline outlined in the request, responses to the request for proposals are due by May 15, with interviews with applicants conducted the week of June 3. City council is expected, according to the timeline, to award its preferred proposal during its June 18 meeting.

View the original story on StarNews’s website