The 6.6-acre park is slated for the northern downtown riverfront
Published: Sunday, February 28, 2016 at 3:30 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 26, 2016 at 11:56 a.m.
WILMINGTON — Along the banks of the Cape Fear River on the north end of downtown Wilmington, construction crews are becoming more prevalent. Sandwiched between work zones is a grassy 6.6 acres slated for what the city is calling North Waterfront Park.
More than two years after the city council voted to spend $4.1 million to buy the land, a master plan detailing the features and design of the park is complete. Below is a summary of the 47-page plan.
The park will include a series of open, grassy lawns and gardens with paths to create “outdoor rooms,” according to the plan. It will be anchored by a performance venue designed to host large community events such as concerts but will include other elements, such as a children’s play area. Overall, the park will be designed to accommodate both organized events like festivals and recreation, such as eating lunch or walking a dog.
Parking and access
The plan proposes a new section of road on the eastern edge of the park, connecting Harnett and Cowan streets. The park should be accessible from a variety of gateways leading to surrounding buildings and the Riverwalk, the plan said. One of the city’s objectives is to minimize using park land for parking. The plan floats a public-private partnership to provide public parking in the area. A separate 2015 parking study recommended the city partner with private developers to add about 150 more parking spaces in the northern downtown riverfront.
Sawmill Point Apartments is under construction just north of the park. The $44 million complex will have 278 units and include a parking deck and marina. Multiple projects are planned for land to the south, including Pier 33 Apartments with 300 units. Crews are working on the buildings that will host two restaurants, Vida Cantina and Blackfinn. Port City Marina has opened between PPD’s headquarters and the city’s convention center. The park will be a “focal point” in the northern downtown district, the plan said.
The park would be a designated space to host events instead of occupying streets or parking lots. During the 2013 fiscal year, downtown streets closed 72 times for special events.
Because the city has not identified funding to develop the park, it is unclear when it could be completed. The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority has no long-term plans to relocate its Cowan Street pump station, which abuts the park. The city’s plan proposes a wall of shipping containers to screen the pump station from view.
The land hosted the Almont shipping facility for more than 150 years. To fulfill a city condition to buy the land, seller Riverfront Holdings II capped the property with two feet of clean fill dirt. Meanwhile, the plan acknowledges a need to address drainage on the eastern edge of the park land. The area is low and traps water, the plan said, noting the detailed design will need to address drainage.
Contact Julian March at 910-343-2099 or Julian.March@StarNewsOnline.com.