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Wilmington leaders meet to discuss possible downtown improvements

READ MORE: Wilmington leaders meet to discuss possible downtown improvements
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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- How can downtown Wilmington become a benchmark city? That was a question that was kicked around today at a state of downtown panel discussion.

"One of the things that Charleston has, one of the things that Savannah has that we don't have is a fabulous first-class park facility on the water, and I think that over time we will have to build that and should build that," said Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo.

There are many ideas to improve the downtown Wilmington scene, and a green area is one of them.

Ideas bounced around the convention center ballroom as officials and more than 400 Wilmington residents tried to figure out how to get more business and residents downtown.

"Whether it's a park, whether it's more hotel space, whether it's a ballpark, it's really not important. Let's pick one of those, the one that we think has the best ROI, and let's take it forward as a community," said PPD COO William Sharbaugh.

The panel said that in order for downtown to improve there has to be a balance of small businesses, restaurants and bars. This is something downtown business owners tend to agree with.

"Downtown is beautiful. It can become even better and better, but you can't fill it up with bars. They push away so many of the regular shoppers. We've got to get them back here," said business owner Isaac Lazer.

Currently there are 80 permitted bars downtown.

City leaders say this leads to constant problems like DWI's, bar fights and public urination.

To help combat these issues there will now be extra law enforcement downtown.

"I'm very pleased that yesterday we added five additional sheriff's deputies to the downtown beat to join the five WPD officers. Enforcement is a big issue, and having ten officers that are going to be in the central business district enforcing the laws is an incredibly important step," said District Attorney Ben David.

With recent investments like the convention center, expansion of the river walk and plans for a 1,500 seat performing arts center, leaders say downtown is on it's way to gaining balance and fulfilling it's potential.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.

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Could it be done? Probably....

Will it be done? Not likely. Wilmington TALKS a good game, but they've been TALKING about downtown for twenty years.

The first impediment is cost. How many tens of millions would it take, money that the city, county, state and feds can't afford to spend? Good God, walk along the parking deck behind the Murchison Building and look at the trip hazards and ankle breakers that we won't even fix for a few thousand dollars! I recently saw a distracted man trip and fall over a large electrical box sitting in the middle of the sidewalk...right in the middle of the sidewalk!

The second problem is the reality of the current downtown. Wilmington allowed the bars to grow in increasing numbers for years. Now, suddenly, "We got a bar problem, boys!" Well, they're there and no magic wand is going to make them disappear. They've already driven out most businesses that you'd want to attract, so you have a double edged sword pointed at you: The bar owners aren't going without a legal fight, and they have to be gone before businesses will return to downtown. It took New York HOW MANY years and cost them HOW MUCH in legal battles to clean out Times Square? (If that had not been done already it could not be done today, because of the money that was involved.)

The third problem is geographic. The isn't a deal killer, but it has to be considered. The wealth in New Hanover County is no longer concentrated in the downtown area, but in the Northeastern corner. Given that fact, people will generally opt for any of the exceptional restaurants in that portion of the county simply out of convenience. I like Cafe Phoenix. I go to Jerry's twenty times more often, simply because it's closer.

The fourth problem is the most difficult - too many panhandlers, too many winos, too many homeless bums, and an inexhaustible supply of armed criminals living in close proximity. This may be the most difficult problem, because while the bar-fly will leave once the bars are thinned out, the panhandler and criminal will gravitate toward downtown as tourists return. We'll see more of them. Wilmington has already been harrassed for picking on the bums, and it's going to take some amazingly creative ideas to make them WANT to leave. Meanwhile, take a look at Baltimore and Norfolk to see revitalized downtowns that required dozens more police officers to keep the area safe from nearby inner-city hoodlums and keep the tourists coming.

All of these problems COULD be overcome or at least managed, but will they?

I'd be surprised....

Wilmington

surely encourages people to hang out on the street all day and night and use the title 'homeless' like a Badge of Honor. Pretty hard to rid the pests when they're treated so well, Common~

Let the money dry up, the Bleeding Hearts go home and the FREEBIES flitter away, and the "pseudo homeless" (BUMS) will travel back to where the deal is going down.

I never saw anything like it. The word is out...Wilmington is the place to be a bum. "Everyone there is RICH and they feel sorry for you and you can make about $100. in about an hour, plus lots of FREE food from the left wing loons who think you look hungry".

THEY are not hungry, for food anyway!

I spoke to the Raleigh Police recently and they do not put up with this crap, and call it loitering. They move the people to the shelters and give them a lift if they need it. They would never get away with slunking all over the (tax payer supported) LIBRARY ... once again.... DOWNTOWN!

Thank You for saying it outloud!

"Downtown is beautiful. It can become even better and better, but you can't fill it up with bars. They push away so many of the regular shoppers. We've got to get them back here," said business owner Isaac Lazer.

I am one of many, many, many people who will opt for O.C. or Bonefish over Circa, or a Panera and Atlanta Bread over a urinated upon sidewalk cafe', no matter whatever or whoever may be causing it.

I agree with Mr. Lazer that downtown CAN be beautiful again, and that it CAN be quaint again, but it absolutely has to have a mix.

The ALL bar revue makes us sick, and we aren't prudes, we love to enjoy drinks and dinner with friends. We drop btw. $100-$150. each Fri-Sat.
BUT NOT DOWNTOWN! Nightlife, we like. Wild, sick, alley perversions, and dangerous, we avoid, (blame us?) but hope they all knock themselves out!

Gas lights, SAFETY, Good aromas, Laughter, Good Restaurants with music and live performers...and NO GUNS, no Knifes, no Gangs, no Throw-Up, no Limosines with girls throwing up in them, no alley sex, no restroom sex, etc. makes Wilmingtonian (and locals who now live here) want to enjoy the downtown all weekend long.
We have an affair to go to at Circa 1922 and would NORMALLY LOVE to enjoy dinner there, but are DREADING it because it is on a Friday night.
We are trying to talk our family into reconsidering a different spot at the beach. We think they are going for it b/c we can walk the beach afterward and not get acousted by panhandlers asking us for "just 2 dollars to stay at Good Shepherd." Last week, there was a guy sitting on the ground playing a guitar for money. Ahhh, QUAINT, like in 'Frisco. And... 100 teenagers were skateboarding all over the sidewalks. Ahhh, fun with older family members coming out of a restaurant trying not to get run down!
It's Broken and needs a lot of fixing and in the meantime, REVENUE is LOST FOREVER! Sorry to say!

Click

your heels together 3x and say theres no place like home. You need to move to the country and build a bubble world to live the rest of your life in.

Hey, I gotcha!

You're the loon who was sitting on the ground (excuse me, filthy- dirty sidewalk) playing for pennies and cigarettes, right?

"step right up folks, lay your money on the barrel-head, and I'll play you a tune right out of Height Ashbury".

Pfffft!

You are the one who wants to live in the bubble called pseudo artsy fartsy downtown, sleep all day, up all night, can't leave the cocoon.

Even the politicians who routinely wear the blinders are RECOGNIZING that downtown does not attract people who would bring in the bacon to the businesses and allow them to thrive.

I am a PROUD Capitalist, and WANT our downtown business owners to thrive. The Bars DO NOT own the buildings, and that is the rub. The building owners sold out long ago...but I digress~

Truth is 'brother, can you spare a dime'...
Who needs Grit and Grime, I love the fresh salt air, the aroma of delicious grilled fish, smiling faces and no VOMIT. BTW, you were sitting in a rather precarious spot!

Bubble?

No, just enjoy what the rest of the area has to offer without the drunks, muggings, pan-handlers, etc. Downtown started going downhill in the mid-90s and the city just stood by and let it happen. They wanted to turn Front St. into mini-Bourbon St. and they got their wish!

Why is downtown so much more important

All they talk about is how to spend taxpayers money to help a few private businesses downtown.Downtown may be a tourist trap but nothing for the working class,you could be collecting tax money if you would have left the land for the convention center be sold for private us,no how we are in debt for millions plus more for operation of the center.Why do the people downtown think may tax money should used to drive business there way if they can not make downtown then move.