WDI: Downtown Wilmington is a hotbed for entrepreneurs

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —  This afternoon, Wilmington Downtown Inc. released figures and highlighted accomplishments of the past year during their Downtown Economic Series annual luncheon this afternoon.

WDI says Downtown Wilmington attracted over $81.9 million in new investment in 2016 and has another $283 million worth of projects announced or underway.

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“Downtown is the leading economic engine for the community,” said Colin Tarrant, Chair of the WDI Board of Directors. “These results show the success the community can achieve by maximizing and leveraging public-private partnerships to attract new investment and jobs to the region’s largest business center.”

WDI says 55 new shops, restaurants and offices opened.  On the office side, employment was bolstered by the opening of the high tech firm of NextGlass/Untappd, LSP3 Architecture’s relocation to Downtown and CresCom Bank.

New entrepreneurs started a range of businesses such as Going Local NC Artisan Gifts, Platypus and Gnome Restaurant, New Anthem Brewing, Tarantelli’s Ristorante Italiano and Coastal Paws.  Another business that opened in 2016 was Farmin’ on Front, an urban food market that features produce, meats, seafood, cheeses, baked goods and many food staples.

WDI also noted that Downtown has over $283 million worth of projects underway or announced.  Highlights include Sawmill Point Apartments, the Hampton Inn Hotel, an Aloft Hotel and RiverPlace, that will redevelop the site of the former Water Street Parking Deck.

WDI also announced results and accomplishments for economic development, environmental enhancement and marketing programs for 2016.

Highlights included:

  • Conducting a market demand study and site analysis with New Hanover County focusing on the block bounded by 2nd, 3rd, Chestnut and Grace Streets.
  • Finalizing the plan and supporting the creation of a Municipal Service District to provide more security, cleanliness, marketing and economic development services for Downtown.
  • Collaborating on placemaking features to mitigate impact of construction work at the intersection of Market and Water Streets.
  • Serving on the Parks Bond Citizens Task Force that resulted in voter approval for parks across the City.
  • Directing the 5th Annual Downtown Lifestyle tour to highlight residential amenities in the center city.
  • Co-producing the 2nd Annual Holly Jolly Holiday Stroll.
  • Strengthening collaborations with groups including the Arts Council, Residents of Old Wilmington, Cucalorus and Downtown Business Alliance.
  • Obtaining an audit by an independent accounting firm that provided a clean opinion on WDI’s financial management.

In addition to the economic development news, community leaders attending the luncheon heard a keynote address from Jason Thiel, President of the Downtown Winston Salem Partnership. Thiel shared insights about the successes in Winston Salem and touched on growth in the bio medical and high tech fields.  The 2013 Garner Report recommended that community leaders in New Hanover County target these industries.

During the event, WDI also highlighted other 2016 community accolades.  Public Policy Polling reported that Wilmington ranked as the most popular city in the state, according to North Carolina residents.  ValuePenguin ranked Wilmington 8th nationally in best cities for tourists.  And, SmartAsset ranked Wilmington as the seventh best city for beer drinkers.

“Downtown is on an amazing roll in adding jobs and spurring investment,” said WDI President Ed Wolverton.  “WDI appreciates its partnerships with the City, County and private investors to continue to grow the economy and strengthen Downtown and an active and interesting community center,” he said.