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MSD Ambassadors Start Working Downtown

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Aug 31, 2017
Wilmington Downtown Inc. has announced that six people have been hired for its new Ambassador program, which launched Thursday.

In June, Wilmington City Council unanimously approved the downtown Municipal Service District (MSD) to cover the Central Business District.

With the MSD beginning July 1, area officials unveiled the first group of new safety, cleanliness and economic development programs for the district. WDI was chosen for the contract with the city, which was the only organization to bid for the project. 

The MSD is expected to generate $377,000 to go toward the extra services, based on charging property owners in the business district 7 cents per $100 property value in exchange for the services.

The centerpiece of the enhanced services is a seven-member Ambassador team, which will be dressed in bright orange shirts, circulating on foot throughout the downtown district to provide safety and security, as well as additional cleaning for the area.

The ambassadors began training in downtown Wilmington two weeks ago, WDI President Ed Wolverton said. Business owners and visitors to the area will now to see them on city streets.

California-based Allied Universal was contracted to hire and manage the Ambassador team. All members are certified through the Private Protection Service Board, which is run by the N.C. Department of Public Safety to administer licensing, education and training requirements for those engaged in private protection services in the state. 

Ambassadors will serve as an additional set of eyes and ears for law enforcement and provide a range of duties such as escorting workers, residents or visitors to specific destinations, giving directions and referrals, identifying street light outages, pressure washing and addressing graffiti, officials said in the release.

The Ambassadors make up seven full-time equivalent positions -- another person is still set to be hired -- and they will have a presence on downtown streets seven days a week, Wolverton said, All ambassadors will work Thursday and Friday.

"The Ambassador program is intended to embrace downtown as a neighborhood and provide safety and cleaning services within the public realm that will benefit everyone," Wolverton said in an email. "Their work will provide a better experience for Downtown customers, residents, workers and visitors.”

WDI, in addition to the Ambassadors program, has also previously announced two new matching grant programs to help spur downtown investment. 

A Façade Improvement Grant program is designed to help renovate buildings and storefronts, which can be used by downtown business owners for a range of improvements such as window repair or replacement, exterior painting, awnings, signs, lights and other similar work to the front of a building. 

The grant will award up to $2,500 of the total cost of the project on a matching basis. Grant funds are available for up to six projects and will be awarded on a first-come, first-serve basis, WDI officials said.

A second matching grant program is intended to encourage new planting areas to buffer or improve parking lots or vacant properties.

The Landscaping Grant program will provide up to $1,500 on a matching basis for irrigation, plants, fencing or other similar upgrades. Funds are available for two such projects and will also be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

“The Ambassadors will be a resource and a reassuring presence for people throughout the central business district and the new matching grant programs are designed to spur additional investment that can help property owners and small businesses within the MSD area," WDI Chair Tom Davis said in the release.

Other MSD programs are in planning phase: one focused on improving pedestrian safety and protecting the urban tree canopy and another to support marketing to better connect downtown residents, workers, customers and visitors. 

WDI expects to release details about the additional programs in the coming months, officials said. 
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