WILMINGTON – It’s been a long time since anyone has tossed a wish-penny into the sunken fountain at downtown’s Riverfront Park.
Water hasn’t gushed from its pipes for years, though the city is working toward a re-beautification of the surrounding property that one official said could ultimately be on scale with Charleston’s celebrated Waterfront Park. That’s years away, but a new plan fueled by a contest could result in a new “water feature” in the old fountain’s place in time for the 2013 N.C. Azalea Festival in April.
Festival coordinators and partners on Thursday called upon architects, engineers and product designers to submit, for competition, artistic designs to renew the old fountain site.
“This water feature will commemorate the North Carolina Azalea Festival, its history, traditions, values and community spirit,” a press release about the design contest said.
Festival office assistant Jordan Hinkley said the contest’s administrators use the term “water feature” because they don’t want entrants to lock their imaginations on a basic water fountain. They’re looking for an artistic production to set off the downtown park. “If there was a way to capture the spirit of the festival…” she said.
“The water feature will be the focal point of the new Riverfront Park design,” the contest announcement said, noting the park is showing its age and officials over the coming years plan to transform it.
Its present look came about in the 1980s as a revitalization of downtown Wilmington’s waterfront. In 2006 the City of Wilmington with Wilmington Downtown Inc. (WDI), New Hanover County and other partners received a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to design a downtown festival park, according to information from the city. The grant was worth $250,000.
While that park initially was to take shape in the parking lot next to City Hall—“It became apparent that there was no political will to take a parking lot away from City Hall,” WDI CEO John Hinnant explained—officials later resolved to revitalize Riverfront Park as such.
The Azalea Festival’s office said it, in partnership with the city, will help to fund the water feature ultimately placed at Riverfront Park. Hinkley said contest entrants should consider water conservation and lasting materials in their designs.
The deadline to enter will be October 19.
Professionals may officially register at http://ncazaleafestival.org. A confirmation email with in-depth instructions will follow the registration.