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From the self-sustainable Arkup Livable Yacht to River Cities floating condominium community, developers are creating unique and affordable opportunities for living on the water. Port City Marina developer Chuck Schoninger has thrown Wilmington’s hat into this niche market by building a unique houseboat community through his company, Atlantic Houseboats, called The Strands.

By Naari Honor

"We’re going to dock these houseboats at Port City Marina,” says Greg Marchi, Executive Vice President of the Atlantic Houseboat project. “We are building two special docks just for the houseboats, but it’s not going to look like your traditional dock.”

The Strands development will not only provide the feeling of neighborhood living, but it will also resemble the look and feel of one. The site will have real grass, street signs, mailboxes and even a small park. The houseboats come equipped with nine-foot ceilings and quartz countertops along with additional amenities including complimentary Wi-Fi access, a stainless steel dishwasher, stove, refrigerator, and a covered wet bar for some houseboat models. A water purification system upgrade is also available for an additional charge. The houseboats are capable of going short distances with a 90HP engine, and the Port City Marina will help to arrange tugboat options for longer distances. Residents will have full access to the marina and riverfront; however, access to The Strand community will be private, providing a quiet oasis for houseboat owners' and their guests' amid the bustling downtown Wilmington backdrop.

Interest for the innovative floating community has ranged from those looking to fulfill their dream to live on the water to investors wanting to get in on the ground floor of a unique venture.

"Our estimate,” says Marchi, “is twenty-five percent of people will be permanent residency, twenty-five percent will buy them as a second home, another twenty-five percent will buy them as a personal investment, and the remainder will be larger investors who say 'this is a great concept’ and want to get in early.”

Aside from offering a unique investment opportunity, the downtown houseboat project provides an additional revenue source for local businesses including privately owned materials supplier 84 Lumber for building materials and North Carolina’s Sound Bank for future residents needing to secure financing for their new boat purchase. Atlantic Houseboats will also provide boat homeowners with a list of local contractors that can assist with any future home upgrades, renovations or repairs.

"We really want to use local providers,” says Marchi. “When it comes to banks, when it comes to providers and even when we do our subcontracting, we are focusing on the local area."

Future residents may have some concerns purchasing a houseboat as a primary or secondary home due to Wilmington’s vulnerability to hurricanes, but the Port City Marina claims to be one of the safest harbors on the east coast, reporting only one serious boat casualty during Hurricane Florence. Atlantic Houseboats also boasts that all of the boats are built to code; all safety measures have been implemented according to Coast Guard standards. The Marina plans to provide all residents with hurricane plan recommendations.

What will it cost to purchase this unique living experience? The Southport one-bedroom model will cost $274,500, the Masonboro two-bedroom model will be below $300,000, and the cost for the Cape Fear three-bedroom model is yet to be released. The insurance is estimated to range from $4,000 to $6,500 coverage per year, and Atlantic Houseboats has identified another local business, Standard Insurance of Wilmington, to help secure insurance for those who need an agent. There is a monthly $208 homeowners association fee and $950 boat slip rental fee; however, those who choose to buy now will get these fees waived for the next six months.

The Strands plans to sell the slips in the near future to those who would like to own a slip. Owners of the houseboats also have the opportunity to dock their boat at their personal slips or in other marinas, if they prefer.

The first one-bedroom, one-bath houseboat is scheduled to be completed by April of 2019 and will initially be used as a model to showcase what Atlantic Houseboats has to offer. The homes will take 90 to 120 days to build from the time of purchase, and new boat owners will get 10 hours of consultant time with a designer to make their new home uniquely theirs.

"We've had a lot of interest from people who are retiring or downsizing," says Marchi. "They've always wanted to live waterfront and now they can live on water!"

So if you are ready to buy that second home on the water you always dreamt about or simply want the experience living downtown while still being a part of a gated community, Port City Marina and Atlantic Houseboats might just be the perfect vessel for you.


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