September 12, 2017

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Resolution Accepting Revitalization and Economic Development Grant – Islander Drive Revitalization - (Summary & Suggested Motions)

The Board of Commissioners is scheduled to consider the formal acceptance of a State grant to assist the Town with continuing efforts to promote the revitalization of the Islander Drive area.  The total grant award is $100,000, and the attached resolution indicates that these funds will be used for expenses associated with land acquisition and/or public infrastructure associated with proposed improvements in the Islander Drive area.

The State grant funds are being provided through the NC Department of Commerce, and were appropriated by the NC General Assembly (as part of the FY 17-18 State budget) for revitalization and economic development efforts in many communities in North Carolina.  Thanks to the support and hard work of NC Representative Pat McElraft, Emerald Isle was included among the many NC communities that were awarded State grant funds.  The Town has some discretion in the use of these funds, and discussion with Representative McElraft revealed her intent to assist the Town with continued revitalization efforts in the Islander Drive area.

As you know, the Town has been working since 2004 to promote quality redevelopment in the Islander Drive area.  Several positive steps have been taken since that time, including the following:

  • continual development of attractive public access improvements at the Western Ocean Regional Access,
  • the creation of the Village West zoning district (that specifically allows residential use and mixed use in this area; that was previously limited to commercial development only),
  • the construction of a new sidewalk to better serve this area,
  • strategic amendments to the Town’s Unified Development Ordinance to remove artificial barriers to quality development in this area, and
  • the recent Town acquisition and subsequent clean-up of the abandoned go-kart track property earlier this summer.

Due in large part to the collapse of the real estate market in the late 2000s and the subsequent national recession, the Town’s overall revitalization goals have not yet been achieved in this area.  There has been some encouraging progress in the past year, however, that suggests momentum is building in this area.  This progress includes:

  • additional quality renovation and expansion of The Islander Hotel,
  • the planned new Lighthouse Inn currently being constructed,
  • the attractive renovations of the Salty Pirate Water Park, and
  • the Town’s efforts toward the development of a new meeting and events center or other improvements in this area.

If the Board concurs, I will process the necessary grant funding contract with the NC Department of Commerce in the coming weeks, and the contract will indicate that the Town intends to use these funds for expenses associated with land acquisition and/or public infrastructure improvements in the Islander Drive area.  As you know, the Town continues to work diligently to devise a specific development plan for a new meeting and events center in the Islander Drive area, and the State grant funds would be used for one or some combination of the following:

  • to defray the total land acquisition cost (~ $675,000 of Town and County funds) for the recently acquired abandoned go-kart track parcel, and/or
  • the construction of public infrastructure associated with a potential new meeting and events center constructed by an as-yet-to-be-determined private partner, and/or
  • the construction of other public amenities in this area that enhance the beach visitor experience and the aesthetic appearance of this area, and/or
  • the construction of a new streetscape along Islander Drive, with additional on-street parking, pedestrian improvements, lighting improvements, and/or other aesthetic improvements.

As specific development plans evolve in the coming months, the Board can refine the specific use of these grant funds as it deems best to provide the most meaningful impact in achieving the Town’s revitalization and economic development goals for the Islander Drive area.

I recommend approval of the attached resolution, and look forward to discussing the most beneficial use of these grant funds with the Board at the September 12 meeting.