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    The Grove   (The "old" Atlantic Beach Circle)

UPDATE:  2-25-06 

The Grove remains on target

By Brad Rich 


ATLANTIC BEACH - Progress on "The Grove"  the mixed-use development to replace the amusement circle ? hasn´t been as rapid as some expected, but developer Fred Bunn told town councilmen Tuesday he´s pleased with the pace and on track.

Mr. Bunn, whose Fred M. Bunn Co. (FMB) is based in Atlantic Beach and Wilson, spoke to the elected panel during its regular meeting in the assembly room behind the town hall.

"I told Cecil (Bradley, his partner in the firm) the other day that I felt like all I was doing was waiting on other people, just sitting around the office with nothing to do," the developer said at the beginning of a talk he gave at the invitation of Mayor Joyce "Tootsie" Vinson. "But I finally feel like things are kicking in."

Specifically, Mr. Bunn said his designers are making good progress on the "taller" buildings ? a trio of 17-story residential structures in the interior "triangle" of the oceanfront district he has bought from others and from the town ? and have been meeting with him regularly.

"There are not a lot of people I have confidence in on designing these things, and if they´re worth their salt, they´re very busy," Mr. Bunn said.

"But I have had meetings with them the last three Mondays and I´ve got another meeting with them next Monday.

"Everything is really progressing at about the pace it should be. We´re going to have a new billboard up soon, too, and some signs depicting some of the things we´re going to be doing at The Grove.

"And we hope within 90 days, 120 at the most, to have some pricing ready so people can know what´s available. I hope we´re only about nine months away from doing some pretty significant construction."

Mr. Bunn reiterated Tuesday what he said during the summer when he had indicated construction starts were about nine or 10 months away - delays are normal and almost inevitable for a project as large as transforming the whole heart of a town.

"It´s not like a residential project; it´s a lot more comprehensive when you are trying to create this mix of development," he said. "It´s just the nature of the beast."

The good news, Mr. Bunn said, is that interest is still high, both in the residential properties and in the large number of three- or four-story commercial buildings expected to line much of East and West drives, the two side streets of the old circle.

But in response to questions, he conceded that things haven´t moved along to the point where any businesses have signed on to buy or rent space.

"Until we get the pricing, that´s really premature," he said. "We´ve got a lot of parties who are very interested, but there isn´t much that can be done until we can show them prices and sizes and shapes and just where things are going to be."

In response to another question, he said the company hopes to use the big July 4th weekend, when the Pepsi Americas´ Sail event will focus on Beaufort, Morehead City and Atlantic Beach, to showcase some of the same posters and drawings that he´s used to tout his plans to town officials and residents.

The bottom line, he said, is that "the economy willing ? and even if it does sputter it would just delay us a little ? we are on track."

The town, which sold to Mr. Bunn four tracts it had bought on the circle in the 1980s, has been interested for more than two decades in revitalizing the area.

Mr. Bunn, who lives in town part time and professes his love of Atlantic Beach, has promised the project will retain an old Atlantic Beach flavor, will attract people from all walks of life and will not be just another exclusive, upscale development. Plans show generous amounts of public space for town special events, and he has promised there will be plenty of opportunities for local flavor and small businesses.

prevoius news:

Staff writers Brad Rich, Ben Hogwood, Eric Steinkopff, Cheryl Burke, Mark Hibbs and Kathleen Bliley contributed to this story.)

Plans for The Grove, the multi-million dollar mixed-use development set to take the place of the old oceanfront amusement circle, were humming along as the year ended.

Developer Fred Bunn said in early December that his company, FMB of Wilson and Atlantic Beach, was finished with most of the conceptual work for the project and was moving forward.

Plans include three high-rise residential structures - each possibly as tall as 175 feet - in the interior "triangle" of the old circle, plus about four, three-story residential buildings and perhaps as many as 14 or 15 one- and two-level partly residential buildings elsewhere. At least one of those is likely to be a bed and breakfast.

The project also is to include thousands of square feet of new or refurbished retail space and plenty of open, public space for town residents to gather and celebrate holidays or simply enjoy themselves.

Hundreds of palm trees - hence the name, "The Grove" - had already been planted in interior locations and around the perimeter of the old circle, but the striking thing to a visitor at that point was how much had disappeared from what had been the circle: many of the buildings that many felt had long been eyesores.

Mr. Bunn said he hoped to break ground on one or more structures, almost certainly retail in nature, within 10 months. He planned to start with the retail and commercial space, he said, because even though there will be more residential space altogether, he considers the shops and other commercial uses "the core" of The Grove plan.

Meanwhile, the town´s council by the end of the year was closing in on adoption of proposals to reduce peak residential zoning in other areas of town.

After two public hearings in November and December, it seemed a good bet that in January, the council would OK changes that would generally reduce the town´s peak density limit by about 25 percent.

The proposals were developed by the town planning board at the request of councilmen, who in recent months have said they believe the town will never get a state permit for a municipal waste treatment system unless it addresses density and stormwater and flooding issues.

As written now, those would be 8,600 square feet for a duplex, 12,200 square feet for a triplex and 15,800 square feet for a four-unit building.

The changes also would affect the amount of impervious surface allowed on lots in the town.

The bottom line is that for most residentially zoned land in Atlantic Beach, the maximum impervious surface coverage would decrease from 40 percent now to 25 percent under the new rules. But that maximum would increase back to the old standard, 40 percent, if the developer includes the engineered plan to handle stormwater runoff.

For commercially zoned land currently does not have a maximum impervious surface coverage rule. That has led, in quite a few cases, to entire lots being paved or covered with buildings.

Under the proposals the council generally agreed upon during the work session earlier this month, the maximum impervious surface coverage in commercial zoning districts would be 30 percent. However, that limit would rise to 85 percent if the developers presents and implements and engineered stormwater management plan.

All of the changes are expected to be implemented on a delayed basis, and existing buildings will be grandfathered.

            Michele Connors ,Broker   252-342-7066 
      Call me, I'd love to represent YOU!

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