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New developer to build Freeman Place homes

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The Wilson City Council meeting kicked off Thursday with news that construction on the Freeman Place neighborhood is set to resume.

“The Freeman Roundhouse expansion, the city’s participation in the TIGER grant project on U.S. 301 and now we’ll see some movement on the housing development all within a tight area around Hines and Nash,” said Wilson Planning and Development Director Rodger Lentz. “In the next three years, you’ll see some significant improvement in that vicinity.”

Development of Freeman Place has been fraught with issues starting with the partnership of three builders around 2008. The city gave the land to the buildings and construction started, but the national housing crisis slowed progress to a crawl. Builders of Hope, a Raleigh-based nonprofit organization, was brought in last year to get the project back on track, but financing issues dissolved that deal early this year.

“Wade Jurney Homes was looking for development opportunities in Wilson and approached us,” said Planning and Community Development Manager John Morck.

After the city got the lots back from the nonprofit, the city’s redevelopment commission — made up of all the City Council members — met Thursday to approve the plan. The city will transfer five to 10 lots to the company at a time.

“They’ll be able to build spec homes on site, which is something none of the other builders have been able to do,” Morck said.

The builder will construct three-bedroom, two-bath homes, many with one-car garages, on the lots with the price point around $92,000. Morck said he is optimistic construction will start by the end of the year and finish the 28 lots left in the original Freeman Place development.

VIDANT HEALTHPLEX APPROVED

The 7 p.m. meeting also included development news with a presentation by Gordon Kolb Jr with GHK Cape Fear Development about the Vidant Healthplex planned for Raleigh Road Parkway. The project had a public hearing to annex the 9 acres into the city limits and Kolb said plans for the 30,000 square-foot project are working through the city’s staff.

Kolb explained that the sale of the property should close Tuesday and construction will start in the next week or two.

“It’ll take about 10 months to complete the project and it should take about 30 days to upfit once Vidant has it,” Kolb said.

He estimated the construction would generate about 400 jobs and the facility will employ about 50 people once it opens. The one-story building will be finished on all sides and screened to hide rooftop mechanical units.

With no public comments and few questions from council members, the annexation was approved.

GREENLIGHT DEBT REFINANCED

Also at the meeting, the council approved refinancing about $42 million from the initial cost to build the Greenlight Community Broadband system in Wilson. Chief Financial Officer Kim Hands said refinancing this will cut the payback schedule from 16 years to 15 years and save an estimated $7,874,545.

The meeting also included the presentation of the annual audit report along with City Manager Grant Goings’ recommendation for a 3 percent merit-based raise for city employees.

“During the recession, I suggested we wait to make a decision on employee incentives until after the audit,” he said. “We decided to continue doing it that way, which shows our employees that when we have a good year and finish in budget, we have the opportunity to make recommendations for raises.”

The meeting also provided the opportunity for officials to proclaim October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month and Fire Prevention Month.

Officials also approved the City Council meeting schedule for 2018 and set a public hearing for Nov. 16 regarding the voluntary annexation of 0.065 acres at 1903 Herring Ave. E.

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