City Council Debates Riverwalk Redesign, WAVE Transit Contract

Sep 16, 2020


At this week’s City Council meeting, Wilmington leaders approved allocating COVID-19 Relief Funds to Good Shepherd, as well as an agreement for the long-anticipated development at Castle Street. But it was proposed Riverwalk improvements and WAVE’s redevelopment that drew the most debate from council. 

Riverwalk Redesign

Deputy City Manager Thom Moton proposed improvements to the Riverwalk and Visitor’s Center, emphasizing a need to revamp the design and increase safety. Councilmember Charlie Rivenbark suggested that safety concerns are related to the area’s presence of people who are homeless or suffer from mental illness:

“Our police department struggles with it, the attorney’s office struggles with it. You can have the nicest facility on the east coast, but if you have an element there like pictures of somebody passed out, laying on the sidewalk -- we can’t have that.”

Moton noted that certain design fixes could deter certain behaviors. But he pointed out that addressing social needs is also necessary. Councilmember Kevin Spears agreed:

“Right, because we’re not going to ‘new facility’ our way out of this problem.”

The presentation included proposals like an increase in lighting, the replacement of pier railings, technological updates like cameras for increased police surveillance, and the removal of roof structures.

Through a phased approach, construction of the project would likely begin in July of 2021.

WAVE Transit's TransPro Contract

Later in the evening, the City’s Budget Director responded to last month’s concerns that the consultant working on WAVE’s restructuring isn’t prioritizing riders. But with neighboring municipalities no longer providing funds for WAVE, Mayor Bill Saffo said council didn’t have much of a choice but to fund the consultant’s contract:

 

“This concept, when you look at what the county and everyone else is putting into this, it’s peanuts. But at the end of the day, we still have to represent citizens. And if we want to make sure that they have their ridership, we just have to step up to the plate, if the others aren’t going to step up. Either that, or cut the routes.” 

The consultant, TransPro, was contracted by New Hanover County. The city's share is around $90,000, or 40% of the total cost.

Council moved to provide the funds. They stressed that the approval was about paying the bill for the work that's been done so far -- not about approving TransPro's recommendations.

Castle St. Development

Another approved resolution Tuesday will allow the city to prepare a final agreement with Hipp Architecture and Development. The redevelopment pertains to the former WAVE facility at 110 Castle Street.

 

The plan includes commercial space, as well as affordable housing. The project’s estimated cost is $8 million.

 

Relief Funds to Good Shepherd

$500,000 in COVID-19 relief funds were allocated to Good Shepherd, to help provide emergency relief to low-income households.

Overall, Wilmington has received $2 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds. Earlier this month, city staff recommended that $500,000 be allocated to the rental assistance program that’s being administered by Good Shepherd Center. That program provides emergency assistance in the form of rental and utility payments for eligible low-income households impacted by COVID-19.

 

Rail Realignment

$115,000 was allocated for a consulting contract to continue the Rail Realignment initiative. Early in the summer, multiple short-listed firms were interviewed to further study the project. Strategic Rail Finance has since been selected to undertake the Economic Feasibility Study.

The city funds are budgeted for, and the term of the agreement is expected to last six to eight months.

 

Live Nation Agreement

Also on Tuesday’s agenda was an agreement with Live Nation to manage the amphitheater at Greenfield Lake. That item was postponed again until October 6.

 

Note: Councilmember Neil Anderson did not attend Tuesday's meeting -- Mayor Saffo noted his absence was excused.