WILMINGTON, NC—This city has gotten the mega-complex fever that has revitalized so many CBDs around the nation and plans to put up a convention center. A site-selection subcommittee has heard proposals from four final bidders and will make its recommendation before the year is out.

Those close to the discussions say the site being proposed by developer Dean Scarafoni might have the best chance at this point. Not only is Scarafoni’s plan similar to a $37-million concept by Strategic Advisory Group-— consultants hired by the city to develop a convention center plan-—it is also close to Downtown. Also, Scarafoni plans to develop the convention center with Summit Hospitality and Marriott International, the former having had considerable experience operating convention centers.

A possible downside to Scarafoni’s site proposal is that it might not be big enough for future expansion. The plans call for a 30,000-sf convention center that could expand by another 30,000 sf or so.

Even if he does not get the nod for the convention center deal, Scarafoni has said he will go ahead with a hotel, offices, retail and restaurants.

Almont Shipping also has a plan. Its proposal suggests a redevelopment of existing warehouses into a convention center complex at a total cost of $43 million. But the Almont site would be much larger with plenty of room for future growth. In this scenario, Almont would relocate and the riverfront site could be developed as an enhancement to the city.

If the convention center does not end up here, and the shipping business moves, the city’s vision for the property includes a 125-slip marina, a 300-unit residential development and 100,000 sf of office space.

Another piece of riverfront property is being offered for $6 million by landowner Chuck Dean. In this case, the city would bid out the construction. If this parcel is not chosen for the center, according to Dean, it is ideal for a combination residential-marina development.

The fourth site in the running is a former oil refinery that has been cleaned up. Linda Carroll of Carroll Carolina Corp. says she will go ahead with a Southern mansion-style hotel, cobblestone streets, shops, offices and facilities for public events, even if the site is not chosen for the convention center.

In addition to the convention center, there are several other major projects on the horizon in Wilmington. A concert hall has been proposed for Downtown, but that project could get shifted to a performing arts building at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

The Wilmington Waves are organizing a minor league baseball team and would eventually need a site for a permanent ballpark. Linda Carroll has said she would not be adverse to having the baseball stadium on her property.

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