Unique Spaces to Save, a conservation group based in Chapel Hill, is trying to raise $16 million by the end of the year to acquire more than 80 acres across from downtown Wilmington for conservation and public use.
The 83 acres are between Battleship North Carolina and U.S. 17 on Eagles Island. The 3,110-acre island is between the Brunswick and Cape Fear rivers in New Hanover and Brunswick counties, according to county documents.
Diamond Development LLC., a Mooresville-based company that focuses on residential real estate development, commercial leasing and capital lending for real estate projects, currently owns the land. Documents submitted to the county show that the development would use 6 acres of the property already zoned for B-2, unused land, for the about 360,000-square-foot building that would have 146 rooms.
If the nonprofit is able to raise the funds and purchase the land, the group will work with other local partners to improve the site for outdoor recreation, education and the conservation of natural resources, according to the organization. Donations may be made on the website.
Before Diamondback Development voluntarily entered into a purchase contract with Unique Places to Save, the company worked for four years with Bobby Ginn, a developer of coastal resorts across the Southeast, to secure permits, utilities, plans and county approvals for the hotel and spa, according to the nonprofit.
The commercial site plan for the hotel and spa went before the New Hanover County technical review committee in December 2021 and is still under review.
“Recognizing the State of North Carolina’s commitment to funding for land conservation, we have applied for grants to fund the purchase of the land. This is our last chance to conserve and transform this land into a valued community conservation asset. If we don’t act now, this important environment, which is poised for development, will be lost forever,” Mason Williams, Unique Places to Save board member said in a statement.
If Unique Places to Save is unable to acquire the land, Diamondback Development would continue to work with Ginn to develop the property and all donations for the nonprofit receives for this project will be redirected to an existing Alligator Creek Restoration project on Eagles Island.
Unique Places to Save has put $100,000 down to secure the purchase contract. The group is working to raise funds from private and public sources, including applying for a grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund.
Though the group is hopeful it will receive funds from the Land and Water Fund, organizers say the need for private donations is vital. “Without private funds and strong local community support, this land and its potential for public use will be lost forever,” the group said.
Jay Shott, co-owner of Diamondback Development, told Coastal Review that “We decided to give conservation a chance” when Unique Places to Save approached the company about conserving the property.
“We worked very hard over the last six years to get it to a point to where it’s able to be developed,” Shott said, but, since so many people expressed interest in seeing the property be conserved “we gave them an opportunity.”
The deal with Unique Places to Save is $16 million but the property appraises “north of $25 million” but, since it’s a nonprofit, “we’ll be getting a tax deduction for the difference.”
Shott said they felt like was a fair option to give everybody an opportunity who wants to conserve that property a chance to do so. They’ll have until the end of this year to make it happen, and if they’re not able to pull it off at the end of the day, then they’ll go right back into developing the property.