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Downtown Park Plan Gets Financial Boost

By Jenny Callison, posted Nov 18, 2011

What began as a rescue operation of sorts has put Wilmington on the path to park development downtown.

Earlier this year, representatives of Cape Fear Future, an initiative of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, discovered that a HUD grant the city had secured was due to expire at the end of 2011 if not used.

“The grant was originally earmarked for development of Thalian Park, but that project was never approved,” explained Connie Majure-Rhett, chamber president and CEO.

When Cape Fear Future program coordinator Sallie Smyth discovered the languishing grant, she and colleagues encouraged city officials to use the grant instead for a three-phase revitalization and expansion plan for Riverfront Park.

The proposal aligned well with the often-cited need for more green space in downtown Wilmington.

Working with a committee of stakeholders, the city put together the grant proposal. In May, Wilmington’s city council approved the plan for the HUD grant, sparking interest from design firms from around the state. After extensive review of submissions from highly qualified firms, council members have agreed to award a contract to local design firm ColeJenest & Stone, P.A. The contract, for $40,000, will encompass a master plan and improvements for Riverfront Park.

According to Smyth, the goal of the design contract is, first, to provide a set of biddable drawings for improvements to phase one (from the Visitors Center to the Coast Guard parking lot); and second, to develop a master plan of all three phases (a continuous band of park space stretching from the intersection of Market and Water Streets to the Coast Guard parking lot and the southern parking lot at the Hilton Riverside).

The design process will ultimately lead to a planning document that outlines recommended park enhancements, additional green space, and construction improvements.

“I have no doubt this revitalization effort will leverage economic development by being a destination park that emphasizes the cultural history and unique character of our downtown,” said Smyth.

For more information, contact Smyth at 762-2611 ext. 220 or smyth@wilmingtonchamber.org.

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