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It was love at first sight when Shanna Moore saw the historic beams of the tobacco warehouse turned into urban apartments in downtown Wilson. She quickly signed a lease and moved into Whirligig Station in February.
“The building has a great history to it. I love the building, but I don’t like the fact that it has flooded twice now,” she said. “Once was enough.”
Moore and other residents in the redeveloped building’s basement began flooding the online tenant portal around 6 a.m. Tuesday after the tropical storm dumped heavy rain on Wilson.
“I’ve cried a lot today and am literally sick to my stomach,” said Christian Boyce-Inscoe, who is set to begin teaching in Wilson County soon. “This is the last thing I needed the week before school starts, especially with the amount of stress teachers are already under.”
Boyce-Inscoe moved into the building in May, noting there was some flooding in other apartments earlier this summer following a heavy rain, and she worries about repeated flooding with rain in the forecast.
“I felt like when it happened before, it was just patched up and not really taken care of,” she said.
Waukeshaw Development executives told the Wilson Times in August 2019 that stormwater would be easily diverted in the future and flooding happening then was a “natural construction issue only happening because we’re not finished.”
Construction crews reportedly installed an asphalt patch last year on the parking lot side of the building to alleviate flooding.
Chief Operating Officer Emily Sanfratella said Tuesday that the city of Wilson removed the patch while redoing the adjacent parking lot.
“The frustrating issue is once the asphalt is in place, the issue would be fixed, but we feel our hands are tied until the parking lot is finished by the city,” Sanfratella said.
Work began in May to install an underground stormwater retention system and resurface the parking lot. The $1.135 million project can store about 850,000 gallons of water before releasing it at a rate the rest of Wilson’s stormwater system can accommodate.
Police reportedly fielded complaints about flooded roads, but downtown didn’t have issues. However, crews were notified shortly before 7 a.m. about water bubbling onto Tarboro Street near Whirligig Station. Officials determined there was a broken 8-inch water pipe, which was replaced Tuesday. Requests for further comment were not returned in time for this story.
Moore said she tried to take the flooding in her apartment in stride.
“This is not the time to point fingers. They just need to fix it,” she said. “If they woke up in the morning and put their feet in standing water, they’d call whoever they need to get it fixed, so how is it different for us?”
Sanfratella said roughly 90% of Whirligig Station apartments are occupied.
“This has been a successful project for us, except for this issue,” she said.
A Greenville-based Mediterranean restaurateur originally was slated to open a location on the Goldsboro Street side of Whirligig Station, but Sanfratella said Bateeni has pulled out of the project.
“We’re actively looking for a commercial tenant to fill that space, and we’re really open to anything,” she said. “With COVID, a lot of things have changed, and it is hard for a restaurant to consider opening, so we’re talking to all sorts of folks who would find that space useful.”