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.