WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington City Council unanimously approved the use of parking money to fund a downtown marketing task force. The city will spend $60,000, $30,000 of which will come out of this fiscal year's budget. The other $30,000 will come out of next fiscal year's budget in two phases.
However, the parking fund deficit is projected at half a million dollars this year. While the city voted in April not to extend the hours on downtown parking meters, it did vote to to change the 90 minute grace period of the parking decks on 2nd Street and Market Street to 60 minutes. It also changed the deck fee for festival and event parking from $5 to $7.
The marketing task force includes members from Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI) and the Downtown Business Alliance (DBA).
President of the DBA, Jim Bitto, says the request is a win-win for the parking fund and the marketing task force.
"You can either solve the problem of the parking deficit by trying to cut back on expenses or get more people to come downtown and park in the decks and generate more revenue, so what we thought would be a good idea is to operate on the revenue side and that's why we took on this project," Bitto says.
City manager Sterling Cheatham says the parking fund already has $30,000 set aside for advertising and will easily make up for its deficit.
“Well you've got to do whatever is necessary to operate an effective program and again the parking fund has been recovering handsomely,” Cheatham says. “In fact, the proceeds are exceeding our other enterprise activities right now in terms of the growth rate in the revenue. So we think that over the next year, year and a half you'll see a balanced parking fund.”
The groups have already spent several months organizing a marketing campaign for downtown, and will use the slogan Bring It! Downtown.