The county began exploring the possibilities of a new library and museum facility on the downtown county-owned block in 2017, with a market and site analysis. A request for proposals was development in 2018 and Zimmer Development was the developer chosen to partner with the county. From 2019-2021, the development team reviewed all possible site alternatives and then entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Zimmer Development in March 2021.
From the summer of 2021 through spring of 2022, the development team and county staff conducted a discovery phase, completed schematic design, and finalized construction documents. In the fall of 2022, the financial structure (which was a lease-to-own model) was not approved and Zimmer Development withdrew from the project. The county purchased the full construction-ready plans from Zimmer Development at that time.
In late 2022, Cape Fear Development began reviewing the plans and possibilities of the project to determine if they would be interested in partnering with the county. In March of 2023, they expressed a desire to enter into a development agreement with the county and the Commissioners asked staff to negotiate new terms for a revived project.