Pender prepares for major extension of utility 421 and continues work on commercial park
PENDER COUNTY –– Pender County is preparing to invest potentially millions in expanding sewerage services along a 5-mile stretch of US Highway 421.
On Monday, commissioners unanimously launched the process of soliciting an engineering company to design a utility project to help spur development in the west end of the county.
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The move costs nothing at the start. By December, commissioners are expected to approve engineering services for the selected firm and are expected to later authorize a construction contract for work to begin.
An anonymous developer is interested in a “significant” and “predominantly residential” project off Blueberry Road. Without access to sewers, plans are at an impasse.
County manager Chad McEwen said he was not free to reveal which developer was in talks with county officials about the projects. “Our plans to bring down this line 421 do not depend on their plans,” he said. “We see the growth opportunity for this corridor for economic development and growth purposes and we want to respond to it. This is the main impetus for leading this line.
While the developer’s preliminary talks have come at an opportune time, the county is not entirely dependent on the project going through. “We planned this anyway,” McEwen explained.
The plans call for a force pipe and a 5-mile lift station. The 10-inch main would run along right-of-way 421 from Blueberry Road to reach the existing Pender Commerce Park wastewater treatment plant, a well-known facility that incorporates hydroponics in a greenhouse atmosphere to clean wastewater for redistribution. Built to handle a maximum of 500,000 gallons per day, the plant is currently operating at approximately 20% of its capacity.
A new lift station near the intersection of Blueberry Road and 421 will be required to send wastewater to the plant through the new discharge line. A water transmission line already spans 421, and smaller lines serve areas near the proposed Blueberry Road project, according to McEwen.
Pender Trade Park
After an almost two-hour closed-door session on Monday, the commissioners emerged to close a contract to sell 39.5 acres he owns in the business park to Ramm Capital Partners LLC.
The proposed selling price is $ 2.054 million, or $ 52,000 per acre.
Last year Chris Ramm, COO of Taylor Development Group and Director of Ramm Capital Partners, opened the first modern speculative industrial building the region has seen in more than a decade at Pender Commerce Park. The 126,360 square foot building was quarterly leased in June.
Ramm’s project kicked off the recent speculative industrial construction trend in the region, with around half a million square feet of new space underway.
Although the development team announced plans for a second speculative building in fall 2020, Ramm told Port City Daily in June that the project was still in the works. The land where the building was planned –– a 20-acre parcel near the entrance to the park –– remains the property of the county, according to property records.
The Property Ramm team recently submitted a proposal for this one, located directly next to the completed $ 8 million industrial warehouse.
On Monday, the county attorney said the property was already under contract with RealtyLink; In order for a new contract to go ahead, Ramm Capital Partners must first obtain authorization from RealtyLink (the original proposed buyer) before the tendering process is initiated.
Last month, Wilmington Business Development announced that RealtyLink is planning a $ 40 million cold storage facility in the park, adding up to 300,000 square feet of high demand refrigerated and frozen space in the market.
According to McEwen, RealtyLink is considering another county-owned parcel in the business park abutting the New Hanover County Line.
Ramm Captial Partners and RealtyLink submitted bids that would subdivide the 135-acre parent lot off Corporate Drive (adjacent to FedEx Freight), the former looking for about 40 acres and the latter about 80 acres. Large areas of this parcel are unusable given the presence of wetlands near the Cape Fear River property, McEwen explained.
Pender County owns hundreds of acres in and around the business park, as part of an economic development plan that has been in the works for nearly a decade. After the BASF vitamin factory closed in 2009, the sprawling property lay dormant.
“It was mostly vacant land,” McEwen said.
Pender even owns land in New Hanover, as the county line intersects the former BASF factory ownership. In total, Pender acquired 740 acres from the vitamin maker through two transactions in 2006 and 2010.
After the purchases, the county built roads, a storm water system, and a water and sewer plant to prepare the business park property for industrial tenants, drawing its first to Acme Smoked Fish in 2013. Au in the years that followed, other big players joined, including FedEx Distributors, Coastal Beverages, Polyhose and Empire.
The remains of the old factory are still there, including several buildings, a few warehouses and a former water and sewer plant. Last month, the county issued a request to qualify for a company to oversee the demolition of all remaining items on the former BASF property.
“We are actively trying to demonstrate the buildings… so that this property is also redeveloped for industrial sites,” said McEwen.
Compared to the east end of the county, where growth broke out in the Hampstead area, the west end has lagged behind with the exception of the business park. McEwen said any growth is welcome along Corridor 421 – industrial, residential, commercial or a mix of the three.
In the 2017 County Land Use Plan, the land surrounding Blueberry Road is designated as Rural Agricultural; most of the land surrounding 421 between Blueberry Road and the commercial park is medium density residential; the land near the business park is marked as regional mixed use and the property closest to the park is designated as industrial.
“We have that infrastructure there, or will do it after we build this line, so it stands to reason that we would want it to be used,” he said. “Building it and not using it doesn’t charge it. “
Send advice and feedback to Johanna F. Always at [email protected]
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