River Place in downtown Wilmington rises past Florence delays

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The massive mixed-use development along Water Street is blazing past its flooding during Hurricane Florence with big plans as it goes vertical

WILMINGTON — Nearly 3 million gallons of water rushed into the River Place construction site on Water Street in September as the Cape Fear River crested in the days after Hurricane Florence.

But nearly two months later, the setback hasn’t stopped the major mixed-use development from continuing its vertical movement.

The major 13-story development, which suffered no damage during Florence, will include 171 residential units, nearly 32,000 square feet of retail space and a 403-space parking garage.

In the days before Florence, the site was prepped for hurricane-force winds and rain by disassembling the 100-foot crane that stood over the site, a task that required two smaller cranes; accelerating an 800-yard pour of concrete on the south end of the site; and removing all large equipment.

Up to two weeks after the storm, project manager Lucien Ellison of developer East West Partners said crews were still working to pump out the water that seeped in from the river bed and over the bank in downtown Wilmington.

“We really lost 20 work days in the storm from prep to clean-up,” he said.

The site was prepared for flooding. Not only did it seal the first subterranean level with flood-proof wrappings, the ground-floor design — which will house retail space — is already designed to be secured behind a movable flood wall.

With Florence now behind them, Barnhill Contracting crews were back on the site Monday, with several more weeks of work under their belt and a second floor of the parking deck well underway. Once the third slab of concrete goes in, Ellison said development will go into overdrive.

“This part of construction, going vertical, goes so much faster than what goes in the ground,” he said. “Once we got out of the ground, these guys are expected to make this happen really quickly. Once the third-floor concrete deck is poured, we are going to start seeing a deck level every two weeks.”

Currently, an average daily crew of 90 have finished the pilings for the entire site and are working on what will become a second-story patio area and home to a new Ash Aziz restaurant.

Ellison said it not clear yet how Florence will affect the long-term timeline for River Place, which originally planned for the opening of the parking deck by late 2019 and then residential and retails spaces in 2020.

“We are still collecting data, but Barnhill is working with our subcontractors to figure out how to compress their original schedules in order to minimize the 20-day lost,” he said.

River Place’s vacancies continue to diminish. Ellison said the 63 or 92 condos have been claimed.

Reporter Hunter Ingram can be reached at 910-343-2327 or Hunter.Ingram@StarNewsOnline.com.