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Downtown Wilson investment creates ‘powerful gateway’: Parking deck, property acquisitions

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With nearly $100 million of investment pledged between Truist, the YMCA and NSV Development along Nash and Pine streets, the Wilson City Council will consider a master development agreement today that includes the construction of a parking garage.

“Over the last 15 years and through the recession, we were averaging approximately $1 million a year in downtown investment. These projects exceed $100 million, so from a historical perspective, this block represents nearly a century of investment and tax growth,” said City Manager Grant Goings. “We’ve never had an opportunity to have this dense, urban-type development in our downtown, but this opportunity for that development presented itself, and that is why things like the parking deck start happening.”

PARKING SOLUTIONS

In October, city officials announced plans for the Wilson Family YMCA as well as a residential and retail development on the site of the BB&T towers once they are demolished in late 2020. During the announcement, Goings said an adequate parking solution would be part of the development.

This week, the city leader said a consultant considered various parking solutions to accommodate employees and guests of Truist, the YMCA and the mixed-use development.

“While I won’t say it is impossible to provide a parking solution without a deck, it would have been extremely difficult,” he said. “We looked at everything from Green Street to the Coon School apartments as a massive parking area, which we obviously don’t want as an entry to the downtown area.”

The block’s inclusion as a federal opportunity zone — a designation that encourages private investment groups to reinvest capital gains in distressed areas — made it critical for the city to pursue the best use possible, Goings said.

For that reason, the city is set to purchase 7.3 acres of land for $650,000 from the Salvation Army on March 31. The deal includes the shuttered church, baseball fields and undeveloped land to Jackson Street but does not include the store or former location of the Boys & Girls Club. Goings said the plan is to use the land for temporary parking during nearby construction but eventually sell it to NSV Development.

“Being the largest undeveloped land in the opportunity zones and one of the largest undeveloped plots downtown, we think it is advantageous to have some control over that property,” he said. “I think it also helps us secure the public investment. We’re putting significant investments into this district, and if we didn’t have control in some way, it could be developed into uses that might not be complementary to the investments already committed.”

Officials said because the city is developing the parking garage, Truist plans to give the city land between the new building and Moss Street as well as two employee parking lots that sit on roughly 1 acre of land across Nash Street from the towers. While uses of the Nash Street lots has not been discussed, NSV Development will be charged with developing the Moss Street property as well as the Salvation Army land.

“Our firm tries to understand driving public interest in these master development projects and stay in tune with the city as it evolves,” said NSV Development principal Andrew Holton. “If a community need comes up, we want to meet and complement that. If the landscape is different for some reason in five years, we can revisit it.”

750-SPACE PARKING GARAGE

The agreement with NSV Development and accompanying details spread over nearly 50 pages but note a district-wide approach is being taken to development planning.

“We think this is a good step forward for the city and this Pine Street development block,” Holton said. “We think the first phase of development will create some density and momentum that will spill forward in multiple directions. It really will help with what the city has been working on with downtown revitalization.”

According to the agreement, the city is committing $15 million to build a roughly 750-space parking garage. The design has not been finalized, but Goings said it is tucked behind the YMCA and will not be a domineering feature on the block. The garage also will allow Broad Street to be reopened to through traffic once construction is complete.

The bulk of the spaces will be licensed for Truist, the YMCA and the mixed-use development but will have flexibility for public use during events and other times. Goings said he also has tasked staff with developing plans to add more on-street public parking in the area.

“In my early days with the city when I hired Kimberly Van Dyk, we started talking about parking downtown, and I said, ‘Your job is to create a parking problem, and it is our role to create a parking solution,’” Goings recalled. “With all the downtown development, we have this problem and it is a good one to have.”

‘DOWNTOWN IS A JEWEL’

In addition to the 650 employees to be housed at the new Truist building, NSV Development plans to have at least 200 apartments as well as roughly 15,000 square feet of commercial space.

“In the downtown area, there are a large number of employees and residents who will benefit from the YMCA, and I think the Y will draw people downtown who might not customarily come here,” Goings said. “Downtown is a jewel, and this is a huge step forward toward making downtown a part of people’s daily activities.

“Downtowns used to be the center of activity for all communities, and reinvestment in downtown is not unique to Wilson, but for a community our size, the scale of this project is probably one of the best examples in the state, if not the whole Southeast.”

The council meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. today on the third floor of City Hall on Goldsboro Street. The master development agreement will be a public hearing.

“We’ve very excited about this partnership,” said Holton. “There will be a lot of interesting milestones over the next two or three years and that growth will be evident by the end of 2022. This new development on the Nash and Pine block will be a powerful gateway for the city.”

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