Battered by a spate of hurricanes, Wrightsville Beach's Crystal Pier was in a dreadful state - but still standing. An engineering report last year found the iconic structure unsafe, leaving two options: the pier would have to be rebuilt or torn down and hauled away.

Anglers and those who enjoy dining while overlooking the Atlantic Ocean breathed sighs of relief when the owner of the Oceanic restaurant decided to replace the old pier with a new one.

According to Mindy Stroupe, corporate communications manager for LM Restaurants - which owns the Oceanic restaurant adjoining Crystal Pier - said that Lou Moshakos, the company's owner and president, will fund construction out of his own pocket.

"It's an expensive project," Stroupe said. "To be quite honest, we couldn't envision the Oceanic without a pier. It is a historic Wrightsville Beach landmark, so we decided to restore it. We wanted to save a piece of history. We are really excited because piers are not being built, they are being torn down."


The pier will re-open this spring; It will have one entrance for diners and one for the public to walk on the pier or fish.


In contrast, the town of Carolina Beach is offering for sale one of the few remaining potential ocean pier sites for sale.


In 2009, the town bought 1.97 oceanfront acres for $4.3 million at a foreclosure auction, intending to build a state-run aquarium-pier similar to the Jennette's Pier project in Nags Head.


Bruce Shell, town manager for Carolina Beach, said the state backed of the deal, and the town was forced - but not "distressed" - to sell the property.


"The state backed out and said there was no funding, so the town was left with a fair amount of debt and the properties," Shell said. "The town was in a position to add to the pier and aquarium. The hotels are paying the debt service. It's not that the town is hurting from having the properties, but the (town) board decided they did not want to be in the real-estate business. It's a real opportunity for the private sector to buy the properties. It's a priority for the town to create jobs and economic development."


David Griffin, director of the Aquariums Division for the N.C. Division of Environmental and Natural Resources, said spending any more money on new aquarium projects had been prohibited by the state legislature.


"The law has a provision that expressly prohibited the Aquariums Division from spending any money on satellite areas," he said. "Effectively, we can't spend any money on aquariums or piers unless the legislature takes an official action."