Current Issues

Historic preservation is not a passive practice.

That’s why we are committed to actively advocating for preserving and protecting our region’s irreplaceable historic resources. Watch this page for updates on various city, county and regional issues that affect our built history and historic communities.

HISTORIC TAX CREDIT GROWTH & OPPORTUNITY ACT (HTC-GO)

The Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is a proven tax incentive for both revitalizing historic community assets and supporting economic development and recovery.

A new and improved version of HTC-GO was recently introduced in the House of Representatives. The bipartisan bill includes both temporary provisions that will bring relief to projects impacted by the pandemic and permanent provisions that will bring more value to the HTC, improve access to the credit, and enhance investment opportunities for smaller rehabilitation projects.

HTC-GO FACT SHEET

To learn more about both the temporary COVID-19 related provisions, in addition to permanent provisions, CLICK HERE!

 

HISTORIC WILMINGTON FOUNDATION’S ADVOCACY

HWF believes in the power of historic tax credits to preserve and protect the irreplaceable. CLICK HERE to read HWF Executive Director Travis Gilbert’s letter to Representative David Rouzer (R-NC 7th District). 

Join our call to action! Click here to urge your U.S. House Representative to support HTC-GO.

LOCAL EFFECTS OF HISTORIC TAX CREDITS

In Wilmington, rehabilitated buildings using the federal historic preservation tax credits include the 1915 Knights of Pythias Castle, now used as Monteith Construction’s offices, the 1897 Solomon Building, soon to be Seabird Restaurant, and the 1903 Richter Building, now a film production company (and winner of a 2020 Preservation Award!).

HTC-GO will further incentivize private investment in our region’s historic structures while creating jobs, revitalizing communities, and instilling community pride in North Carolina’s history. 

National Register Historic Districts

Our city’s eight National Register Historic Districts are under threat. Contributing structures—buildings that add to the historic district through their architectural integrity or historical significance—are being demolished. Architectural materials are being replaced with modern, plastic fixings with short lifespans. Natural resources that create the districts’ historic settings are being destroyed. HWF is fighting to protect the irreplaceable historic resources of our city’s National Register Historic Districts.

In a series of three interviews with Port City Daily, HWF Executive Director Travis Gilbert relays the importance of historic districts. Links below!

Wilmington Historic District

Wilmington National Register Historic District

The city’s oldest district–created in 1974 and expanded in 2004–is witnessing an alarming number of contributing structures being destroyed. A study of the district’s northside highlights this trend, with an estimated reduction of over one-third of all contributing structures since 2004. Of the contributing structures that remain in these study areas, six have preservation easements by the HWF, including the Brooklyn Arts Center and Edward Teach Brewery. HWF saved one of the contributing structures, an 1890s bungalow, in 2018, moving it from 310 Bladen Street just a few blocks away to the corner of Swann & North 4th Streets; once set for demolition, soon it will serve the neighborhood as a seafood restaurant! In a stunning transformation, the Richter Building on North 4th Street—a 2020 HWF Preservation Award winner!—was restored thanks to federal tax credits and now houses a film production company.

 

Early Suburb Neighborhoods

Carolina Heights, Carolina Place, Sunset Park, Market Street Mansion, Ardmore-Westbrook, and Brookwood National Register Historic Districts
 

Preserving wooden siding, windows, doors, and other architectural features is core to maintaining a building’s status as a contributing structure to a National Register Historic District. Only individually-listed or contributing structures on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for North Carolina’s State Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program, which offers a 15% tax credit for owner-occupied residential properties. Preservation of contributing, residential properties in Wilmington’s early suburb neighborhoods could provide homeowners a tax credit of up to $22,500!

 
CLICK HERE to read “Should the city protect Carolina Place as a local historic district?,” published on April 18, 2021 by Port City Daily.

Masonboro Sound

Masonboro Sound National Register Historic District

HWF is proud of our preservation successes in the Masonboro Sound National Register Historic District, from relocating the Hill-Anderson Cottage (1835) to placing an easement on the Doll House (1924). Together, we protect these irreplaceable historic resources that represent the birth of coastal tourism in North Carolina and preserve the natural resources of this “oasis of extraordinary beauty.”

 

CLICK HERE to read “Masonboro Sound Historic District: An ‘oasis of extraordinary beauty’ threatened by clear-cutting development,” published on April 25, 2021 by Port City Daily.

PROJECT GRACE

A project of New Hanover County, Project Grace aims to redevelop a block of downtown currently occupied by a parking deck, the historic 1926 Borst building, and the library (formerly a Belk-Beery store). While still in the planning stages, Project Grace proposes that a replacement library be built and Cape Fear Museum moved downtown from its current location in the historic Armory on Market Street. The project includes the addition of new offices, retail space, and apartments. After months on hold, Project Grace is back on the agenda; NHC approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Monday, March 15.

Since this project was first proposed, Historic Wilmington Foundation has tirelessly advocated on behalf of the preservation of both the Borst and Belk-Beery buildings. We continue to do so: CLICK HERE to read the letter written by Executive Director Travis Gilbert, requesting the New Hanover County Commissioners grant HWF a preservation easement on the Borst building.

The following is an excerpt from an op-ed published in the StarNews on March 11, 2021, written by Travis Gilbert, Executive Director of HWF, and Gareth Evans, Executive Director of the Bellamy Mansion Museum:

Instead of the wrecking ball and landfill, we advocate a different path [for the current library and Borst buildings]: preservation and rehabilitation. Loss of the Borst building—a contributing structure in Wilmington’s National Register Historic District—will have damaging repercussions for the city. … Our Historic District designation is already at risk after years of historic structures being demolished due to neglect, storm damage, and the loss of architectural integrity. A decrease in the size of the district could cost downtown properties economic benefits, such as eligibility for Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. 

… To protect our historic district, we ask that New Hanover County place an historic preservation easement, managed by the Historic Wilmington Foundation, onto the Borst building. It is imperative that this easement be in place before a decision is rendered about the long-term ownership of the North Parcel, allocated for development. HWF has skillfully managed easements throughout our community for more than 50 years. Preserving the Borst building strengthens the county’s commitment to the economic revitalization of downtown Wilmington.

[A]daptive reuse has worked countless times across the state, and the County has found success with this model before, to its great credit. With imagination, we can avoid demolition and retrofit the buildings to support our modern needs. Rehabilitation is consistently less expensive than new construction—but officials must be willing to explore the possibilities first. … As preservationists, we would be delighted to take a constructive role in this project as partners with the County group. We believe in the power of imaginative rehabilitation to revitalize historic buildings and bring them into the modern age—without replacing them as pillars of our downtown. 

Join us as we advocate to preserve & protect the irreplaceable.

Now is the time to raise our voices, before New Hanover County razes two irreplaceable historic buildings. Act now—takes but a moment to stand up for our historic downtown!

Support HWF’s proposal for a Historic Preservation Easement on the Borst building: Clicking the button above will draft an email to the New Hanover County Commissioners, complete with a draft letter already crafted for your use! 

Advocacy Pro-Tip: Email campaigns are more effective when constituents personalize their letters to representatives. Be sure to add your own flair and thoughts to this note, and sign with your name!

CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE REPLACEMENT

Because this bridge and any changes to it will impact historic neighborhoods, HWF is carefully monitoring the potential replacement project. We urge you to stay involved, and will share information here.

The NC Department of Transportation has recently completed a feasibility study for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge’s replacement, identifying four possibilities for a new crossing. All four options are located just south of the current vertical-lift, four-lane steel bridge, which opened in 1969. They share the same basic layout: six 12-foot lanes (three in each direction) divided by a 22-foot median, and 12-foot outside shoulders. Each option also includes a 15-foot separated path for pedestrians and bicycles. 

Feasibility Study documents:
     1) SUMMARY
     2) MAPS
                    – OPTION 1
: Fixed span with a 65-foot vertical clearance, $196.6 million
                    – OPTION 2: Fixed span with a 135-foot vertical clearance, $245.7 million
                    – OPTION 3: Movable span with a 65-foot vertical clearance, $487.7 million
                    – OPTION 4: Movable span with a 65-foot vertical clearance and railroad component, $608.7 million
                                    * The rail option is part of Wilmington’s rail realignment plan and would require a partnership between the City, NC DOT and others. 
     3) PROJECT INITIATION FORM
     4) SCOPING CHECKLIST

On July 7, 2020, Chad Kimes, Division 3 Engineer for the NC DOT, joined us to share these plans for the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge replacement and answer viewers’ questions. Want to see the video recording? CLICK HERE or watch below! To view the slideshow, CLICK HERE.

 

In the News:

RAIL REALIGNMENT

The rail realignment project could have an influence on the city’s historic fabric. We’re keeping up to speed on it and hope you will, too.

The City of Wilmington’s Rail Realignment Project proposes the replacement and improvement of the existing freight rail route between Navassa (Davis) Yard and the Port of Wilmington by creating a new, shorter route. Once a new freight route is in operation, the City has proposed repurposing the existing route for public use.

HWF fully supports the City of Wilmington’s rail realignment project—so long as it is accomplished without undue adverse effects on historic resources. On March 24, 2021, HWF’s Executive Director Travis Gilbert sent a letter to Mr. Aubrey Parsley, Director of Rail Realignment. To read the letter in full, click here.

CONFEDERATE MONUMENTS

Historic Wilmington Foundation released the following statement on June 9, 2020. 

Historic Wilmington Foundation (HWF) supports the lawful and safe removal of the George Davis monument at Third and Market as well as the Wilmington Confederate monument at Third and Dock. These artworks do not represent the values of the City of Wilmington or this organization. It is HWF’s hope that the monuments will be relocated to a location where they may be preserved, interpreted, contextualized, and used expressly for educational purposes, rather than to continue to serve as visual public reminders of racial injustice.

FAQs:

Q. Where would the monuments go?
A. Both the state and the city will help contribute to that decision. According to North Carolina statutes, relocation of monuments would need to be to a “place of equal prominence.”

Q. Does the Historic Wilmington Foundation have the authority to move the monuments?
A. This organization does not have the authority to move the monuments.

Q. If the monuments are moved, what will be different about them?
A. Preservation doesn’t necessarily mean “honor.” Relocating confederate monuments means reinterpreting them, too. More than the name and title of the subjects represented, contextualizing addresses when and why the statues were erected–in this case, during the Jim Crow era and to tout racist ideology. Interpretation and contextualizing is typically done through signage, but can also include tours, other artwork and literature at the site.

Q. What does the National Trust for Historic Preservation think about this issue?
A. On June 18, 2020, the National Trust posted on their website, “Although Confederate monuments are sometimes designated as historic, and while many were erected more than a century ago, the National Trust supports their removal from our public spaces when they continue to serve the purposes for which many were built—to glorify, promote, and reinforce white supremacy, overtly or implicitly. While some have suggested that removal may result in erasing history, we believe that removal may be necessary to achieve the greater good of ensuring racial justice and equality.” For the full statement, click here.

Q. When will the monuments be relocated?
A. While conversations are ongoing, at this time there are no plans to relocate the monuments. Please watch this page for updates.

Q. Will Historic Wilmington Foundation be making statements about other local monuments?
A. Currently, the organization is focusing only on the two statues downtown at Third and Market and Third and Dock streets.