WILMINGTON — Visitors to Downtown Wilmington might notice some new faces, ‘ambassadors’ wearing bright orange shirts as they make their way around town.
The newly introduced Amassador program will serve the recently approved Downtown Municipal District (MSD). Managed by the Wilmington Downtown Incorporated, the ambassadors will be offering directions, addressing cleanliness issues, and providing additional safety to the 70 block MSD.
The MSD was approved after two years worth of meetings and planning, President of WDI Ed Wolverton said, and acts as a special district that collects additional funds from property taxes that go directly back into the community the money was collected from. The MSD went into effect on July 1, 2017 and the city granted a managing contract to the WDI.
The revenues for the MSD come from a $0.07 per $100 of valuation property tax increase, and expenses equal $377,000.
“It (the MSD) becomes a self funding mechanism for extra services beyond what local government can typically do. These are very common tools used throughout the country … in North Carolina, there are 57 MSD’s,” Wolverton said.
The ambassador’s will help address several issues in the downtown area including cleanliness issues like sticker removal from signs and street light poles that are often overlooked. The group is also trained and certified to assist in safety concerns, although, the ambassadors will take a “hands-off” approach, Wolverton said.
While the ambassador program is the largest part of the WDI’s program, it is not the only service provided. The organization is also providing two matching grants for downtown development, the first of which is a facade improvement grant, and the second a landscape improvement grant.
“The centerpiece of the enhanced services is an Ambassador team consisting of seven positions. The group is dressed in bright orange shirts and circulates on foot throughout Downtown to provide a safety and security presence along with additional cleaning for the area,” according to a WDI press release.
Wolverton hopes that the facade improvement program will encourage property owners to provide upgrades to downtown buildings, and help small businesses pay for upgrades like painting, window repair, and other exterior problems older buildings often face.
The landscaping grant program will be mainly directed towards improving landscaping and buffers around parking lots of vacant areas, Wolverton said. Many of the lots were created before any city code required landscaping buffers, and hopefully this program will encourage owners to upgrade their property, he said.
Michael Praats can be reached via email at Michael.email@example.com