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Falling snow didn’t stop 10 residents from expressing their support for the Pine Street redevelopment project at Thursday’s Wilson City Council meeting.
“(Wilson) has had vision for generations, and we continue to have vision,” said Eliot Smith, president of the Wilson Downtown Properties board. “This agreement takes vision. It takes courage, and I commend you for even considering it, so I hope you will approve it.”
The agreement details nearly $100 million in private investment — a mixed-use development, the relocation of the Wilson Family YMCA and the new Truist building — that spurred the city to commit to spending up to $15 million on a parking garage on Broad Street for employees, residents and guests of the developments.
Also included in the agreement is the purchase of the former Salvation Army church and undeveloped land to be used for temporary parking during the initial construction. Officials agreed that once the first phase is complete, NSV Development will lead the effort to redevelop the land from the Salvation Army as well as land next to the new Truist building.
“This step tonight is one of the first formal steps, but there will be others,” said city attorney Jim Cauley. “You’ll see pieces of this on your agenda again.”
Architectural designs, allocations and appraisals are just a few of the public votes required before dirt can start being turned starting in early 2021. Smith said the city’s vision for development of the opportunity zone — a federal designation that provides incentive to private investment in distressed areas — where the BB&T towers currently sit reflects “what the federal government envisioned” when the program was created.
NSV Development principal Andrew Holton took a chance to speak before the vote, noting a Thursday article in The Wilson Times about the project spurred a number of inquiries from other communities about why the Durham-based developer picked Wilson. He told a caller about the mix of recent public and private investment, including the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, Whirligig Station, Gig East Exchange, Cherry Hotel, YMCA and Healthcare Foundation of Wilson partnership and the Oliver Nestus Freeman Round House and African American Museum.
“He said, ‘Oh, I guess we have some work to do.’ I said, ‘You do, and Wilson has a head start,’” Holton said. “They don’t appreciate the years of planning, the years of work that go into making this vision happen. We are so excited to be here with you in this vision, and after being in Durham for almost 20 years, we’re looking forward to being in Wilson almost as long.”
The council’s approval of the agreement was just one item on a packed agenda. No residents spoke in favor or opposition to the annexation of nearly 45 acres for the new Evolve at Heritage apartments or an economic development package for Barnes Metalcrafters. The city also accepted eight flood-prone, undeveloped parcels near Wiggins Mill that officials said will be used for passive recreation as well as flood damage prevention.