Wilmington, NC – The Wilmington City Council votes tonight on whether to pay 2.6 million dollars for less than half an acre of land to build a park across the street from the river.
For comparison, that's the same amount Wilmington has budgeted for street rehabilitation projects over the next three years.
$1.1 million of the purchase will come from last year's parks and recreation bond and the rest from funds set aside to improve Bijoux Park on Front Street. The planned Water Street park will occupy the southwestern corner of the block between Chestnut and Grace Streets.
The city has yet to budget for the design or development of a park on the site, or demolition of the parking deck that currently shades that location, and Councilmember Laura Padgett says that process probably won't start anytime soon.
"That will frankly be an issue that future councils will have to address," she said, "what we've done is procure the land."
Councilmembers say the timeline for developing the park is dependent on what happens on the other end of the block, where developers Gene Merritt and Peggy and Buddy Dealey intend to construct a mixed residential and commercial building.
The arrangement calls for the city to pay Merritt and the Dealeys $5.5 million to construct 250 public parking spaces as a part of that development. That cuts the number of spaces on the block nearly in half.
Councilmember Jim Quinn fought for more parking on the site and says fees should eventually cover the expense of those spaces.
"I would predict that it would hit the ground running. I think the demand is certainly there for monthly spaces and certainly for any vacant spaces that might be available," Quinn said.
Both Quinn and Padgett expressed a hope that some portion of the parking deck might remain open until the new development is completed in the next few years
The arrangement on Tuesday's agenda replaces a previous contract under which the city was obligated to build a larger parking deck on the Water Street site.
The Wilmington City Council's upcoming meeting agenda (the Water Street deck is item #10)
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