The Arts Council of Wilmington and Wilmington Downtown Incorporated are among six organizations benefitting from funding designed to promote cultural arts and economic development.
The Wilmington City Council unanimously passed a resolution during its Tuesday, Aug. 18 meeting to allocate funding from its newly adopted budget to six local nonprofit organizations. In total, $167,000 will be distributed among the Arts Council of Wilmington ($25,000), Jewish Film Festival ($2,000), Wilmington Chamber of Commerce ($20,000), Wilmington Downtown Incorporated ($30,000), the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Research Foundation ($70,000) and the Cucalorus Film Festival ($20,000).
The arts council’s share will support two different projects, executive director Rhonda Bellamy said.
“One is the Ears on the Arts listening tour. It’s a series of facilitated discussions,” she said.
The first event, a one-half day workshop Sept. 18, will be hosted by Arts Access, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that focuses on making fine arts programs accessible for children and adults.
Future workshops will discuss music and theater.
The second project is an expansion of the Pedestrian Art program. Currently, the program features 12 sculptures scattered throughout downtown Wilmington. The project is a collaboration between the Arts Council of Wilmington and Tri-State Sculptors, a nonprofit organization that helps artists in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina network and exhibit their work.
Ed Wolverton, president of Wilmington Downtown, Inc., said his organization will use its funding on the evaluation of a potential municipal service district, a project started in 2014.
“It is focusing on the zoning area identified as the central business district,” he said. “It will benefit the city by pulling together merchants and property owners to find out whether they would want and need funding for extra services that would benefit just the district itself.”
The district stretches from the Isabel Holmes Bridge to Fifth Avenue, and from Orange Street to the Cape Fear River. The survey’s top three priorities are public safety, economic development and cleanliness issues.
“Solutions to cleanliness issues might include removing graffiti in a more timely manner and more sidewalk cleaning. That would include the business climate and improve the city’s sales tax base,” Wolverton said. “We also will create new programs to attract more investment downtown.”
Scott Czechlewski, director of communications for the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, said the organization’s $20,000 will be donated to the Blue Ribbon Commission focused on helping youth.
“It will support the Youth Enrichment Zone summer initiative, which is a program they started in the summer to work with the kids that are at risk to give them a place to go,” he said.
Czechlewski added the program helps at-risk children with “summer slippage,” or forgetting what they learned in school during the summer, so they can start a new school year on par with other students. 2014 was the Enrichment Zone program’s inaugural year.
The Blue Ribbon Commission aims to prevent gang violence, as well.
The council also discussed amending the city’s land development code to allow the construction of courtyard-style housing developments in zoning districts R-10, R-7, R-5 and R-3, and in R-20 and R-15 with special use permits.
The council voted 6-1 to give preliminary approval to the plan.
Christine Hughes, the city’s senior planner, presented tentative plans for the single-family housing units.
“I think these are good with four, six, maybe eight units, but when you get to 10 or 12 units it becomes a very multi-family development in the middle of the city,” council member Laura Padgett said.
Council member Kevin O’Grady voted against the plan. He wanted Hughes to gather input from people who live near the potential construction sites for the developments.
“We have neighborhoods that are settled, that are developed. People have invested in those, and now what’s across the street is about to change,” he said.
Council member Charlie Rivenbark supported the development plans.
“I think this is a great concept to revitalize some of these neighborhoods,” he said.
The final vote on the development plan will take place during the council’s Tuesday, Sept. 1 meeting.
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