Home Foreclosure ‘No viable path’: Deal to keep 82 acres on Eagles Island dries up

‘No viable path’: Deal to keep 82 acres on Eagles Island dries up

Eagles Island (Courtesy/Eagles Island Working Group)

WILMINGTON — A tumultuous bid to retain part of Eagles Island has ended after failing to secure state funding and garner support from private investors.

Unique Places to Save, a Chapel Hill nonprofit, announced on Tuesday that it has terminated a contract with Diamondback Development to purchase a combined 82 acres for $16 million. The group says it missed a $12.2 million grant from the North Carolina Land and Water Fund as the primary reason for terminating the contract.

READ MORE: Eagles Island conservation plan on thin ice following minimal local support

“Unique Places to Save relied on state support to build the momentum needed to bring private philanthropic donors to the table,” noted a press release from the nonprofit.

The plan to purchase the property on the western banks of the Cape Fear River was born earlier this summer when the non-profit organization paid $100,000 towards the purchase agreement. He was given a deadline to raise the rest of the money by the end of this year.

UP2S hoped to develop park space, education and historic centers, focusing on the Gullah Geechee heritage and maritime history of the region, as well as creating pathways for visitors to explore the trails, do kayaking and participating in bird watching opportunities. Official details of the plans were never made clear.

“Without NCLWF support and any other viable state or federal grants for land acquisition, the project has gone cold and there appear to be no major donors interested in preserving the land and, therefore, no way forward. viable,” the statement noted.

PCD reported earlier in the month, the nonprofit missed out on funding due to NCLWF concerns over the price of the land relative to its valuation, a lax conservation plan and lack of formal support from public entities.

Following his rejection, UP2S executive director Clark Harris – who was hired to lead the project’s fundraising efforts in August – told PCD that did not mean the deal was done. He said the focus would be on creating a solid strategy to secure financial support from private investors.

On Tuesday, Harris said the nonprofit was looking for major donors among its private partners, but found no willing contributors. He said the nonprofit lost $100,000 on the deal and all other donations it received since its launch in June would go to its ongoing Alligator Creek Restoration Project on the island.

UP2S is investing $2.6 million in the creek with funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It’s one of more than 20 projects the ten-year-old nonprofit is currently preserving. It also holds 5,429 acres of conservation easements and over 100 miles of waterways across the country.

Harris did not reveal total donations from the Eagles Island project.

With the conservation effort dead in the water, 14 acres — bought by Diamondback Development in foreclosure in 2015 — are back on the table to be turned into the 100-foot Wilmington Hotel and Spa by developer Bobby Ginn.

The building plan for the hotel and spa predates the conservation effort. Ginn submitted site plans in November 2021. It is currently zoned for business, and developers only need state and federal permits for the right project.

In July, Diamondback owner Jay Shott told the Port City Daily that he was impressed with UP2S and that the project depended on whether the public wanted it to happen or not. The hotel and spa projects were put on hold after evaluation by the technical review committee, following the transfer of the contract to UP2S.

Eighty-two acres of Eagles Island are located in a 100-year flood zone, which means there is a high risk of water accumulation. Yet 14 acres along the river is not; these highlands are partly where the hotel and spa should be built.

Shott said the financial gain would be about the same whether the area is developed or conserved.

The land was initially valued at $26 million, but Diamondback would have received tax relief for the difference through mitigation credits.

Shott told the Port City Daily on Tuesday he was disappointed to see the UP2S deal fall through.

“They worked hard on the project,” he said.

At the September 20 NCLWF meeting, Chairman Jason Walser questioned whether the hotel development would go ahead given rising construction costs.

Shott said he will consult with his partners on next steps in the coming weeks when PCD asks about his future. He added that he would be happy to work with UP2S in the future.

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