Restaurant, proposed wine bar on 3 acres near Live Oak Bank campus

Architectural drawings of Covey were submitted to the city. The New American restaurant is offered near the Live Oak Bank campus. (Courtesy picture)

WILMINGTON — A 6,500-square-foot “New American” restaurant concept could soon sprout from the ground and open by next year near the Live Oak Bank campus. First, the plans must gain approval from the city’s planning commission and council in the coming months.

Covey Property LLC is seeking conditional rezoning to permit its new restaurant at the southeast corner of Independence Boulevard and Tiburon Drive. The neighborhood restaurant could accommodate 100 diners in the main room and lounge, plus 44 on the terrace, at least 30 in the wine bar and more in a private dining area.

“‘Covey’ means ‘a group or gathering,'” according to the project narrative, submitted by applicant Brandon Wilson. “This name was chosen because this restaurant wants to be a neighborhood restaurant.”

Wilson declined to comment on the project at this time out of respect for the zoning process.

The address would be 1610 Tiburon Dr., a 3.29-acre vacant lot between Shipyard and Independence Boulevards. Covey Property aims to get the green light from the city council by May, start the 10-month construction by June and open its doors to diners by April 2023.

If built, the restaurant would operate Wednesday through Monday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It would close on Tuesday.

Currently owned by The Oleander Company Inc., the land is zoned for office and institutional uses, such as banking and medical services. In 2017 it was conditionally rezoned as part of a group of plots to expand Live Oak Bank’s office park.

The plaintiff argues that the zoning is outdated for the area, given the shopping malls and residential communities that have sprung up in its vicinity.

“The neighborhood is now a vibrant business center with diverse residential life, but it lacks accessible restaurants for residents and workers, and, in particular, there are no restaurants within reasonable walking distance” , depending on the application.

Improving walking is a priority for the city, the app points out. Residents of One Midtown Apartments could reach Covey via the Cross City Trail.

Neighbors within 300 feet of the property were invited to a meeting held in late February to discuss the proposal. At least 20 people attended, not counting those on Zoom who did not share their contact details. According to the applicant, some were concerned about noise, but the project is not intended for weddings or live music.

An architect reportedly told neighbors that interior acoustics would limit exterior noise. To reassure those who are worried about a change of direction, those responsible for the project have assured that it “relys on people who are strongly committed to this community and to the sustainability of the project”.

On board the development team are Peadon Finein Architecture, Monteith Construction and Norris Tunstall Consulting Engineers. Chip Mahan, Chairman and CEO of Live Oak Bank, is also taking part in the adventure.

The proposed restaurant is just over half of the area permitted under existing zoning. According to the plans, they intend to “remove as few trees as possible” and “replant”. Mihaly Land Design oversees the landscaping.

The planning commission will recommend approval or denial to the city council, and then the city council will make the final decision on the rezoning at a subsequent meeting.

The hearing will be held Wednesday, April 6 at 6 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall, 102 North 3rd St. in Wilmington.

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