The convention center framework is going up in a hurry, but the hotel part of the project is slow moving. The Wilmington River Group had until Tuesday to provide council with a million dollar letter of credit ensuring it could complete the hotel. They didn’t do it.
That raised questions among council members as to whether to extend the contract, yet again, or go back to square one. Laura Padgett of Wilmington City Council said, “We have no way of knowing that five days, two weeks, thirty days just more time, under the water, under the bridge before we get started on a hotel.”
The convention center project has been a long time coming. Final plans were approved in January of 2006, with the promise of a hotel. In May of 2007, the contract with the original developer, Armada Hoffler, was nullified because it failed to present the council with a full service hotel.
Council voted to go ahead with the project anyway in November of the same year. In April of 2008, the Wilmington River Group was approved to build the hotel, Hotel Indigo. And now for the sixth time its had its credit deadline extended.
“I know my confidence has been shaken in terms of them being able to get to the table, but in this current market, I’d like to not throw them out tonight,” added Wilmington City Council’s Ronald Sparks.
In the end, council voted six to one to give Wilmington River Group until noon on August 28th to come up with the letter. Also in the resolution, the City of Wilmington will have the right to repurchase the land if construction on the hotel does not begin on December 1st.
“Our concern as a council is whether they buy it or someone else buys it, that someone builds a hotel here in a certain amount of time and that’s council’s concern, is that we have to have a hotel down there,” said Mayor Bill Saffo.
Mayor Saffo said council should be prepared to evaluate other developers in case the Wilmington River Group does not come up with the letter of credit by next week.
Also last night, City Council unanimously approved a federal grant for the Wilmington Police Department to fill its 11 vacant positions left open because of budget cuts. A construction grant was also awarded for the Empie Park project. Improvements include more tennis courts and a softball complex. Plus, council approved more than two million dollars to begin renovations to Thalian Hall.