Friday, May 20, 2022

Wilmington City Council approves ‘Downtown Alive,’ street closings to begin this week

The streets highlighted in yellow will be closed for the Downtown Alive event. (Port City Daily/Courtesy City of Wilmington)

WILMINGTON — It took some time, but the City of Wilmington’s City Council has approved plans for Downtown Alive, a program that will allow for the closure of streets downtown so restaurants and other businesses can reopen using outdoor seating.

“These street closures are a response to a request from the Downtown Business Alliance (DBA) (presentation attached) to help downtown restaurants recover from significant economic turmoil resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Some retail merchant participation is also expected,” according to city staff.

The special event will start June 25 and run until early September and will allow “the sale and service of alcohol in the public rights-of-way and streets within the Temporary Outdoor Dining Area during scheduled times,” according to the ordinance City Council passed.

The times the downtown streets will be closed appears to have been amended from previous discussions and includes Thursday — Sunday.

“Street closures will follow this schedule: Thursdays and Fridays, 5:30 p.m to 10 p.m., Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sundays, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Streets must be fully accessible within one hour of event end time, e.g. 11 p.m. Thursday — Saturday, or 6:30 p.m. if on a Sunday (Labor Day to follow Sunday schedule),” according to the ordinance.

While other local governments were quick to pass new rules allows restaurants to utilize outdoor seating, the City of Wilmington took several weeks longer to take any sort of action. That is, at least partially, due to the logistics of closing public right-of-ways and allowing alcohol to be served in them.

It is also going to cost residents to put this plan in motion — nearly $110,000.

A portion of these funds are going to be spent on vehicle barriers to prevent traffic from accessing the streets, but by far the largest expense is going to pay for event management.

Traffic barriers will cost $28,000 while Cool Wilmington will receive $81,500 for event management (that’s under the amount which requires the city to issue an RFP for services).

The event management company would be responsible for its own staff, the set-up and breakdown of the event each day, equipment rentals, and more, according to Assistant City Manager Thom Moton.

It also locks Cool Wilmington into a contract with the city meaning he will have to reject other work during this period of time, he said.

However, since the entire state is facing concerns from Covid-19 and Governor Cooper has not yet announced a phase three date, large events like concerts and festivals are not even permitted to happen.

Cool Wilmington does have a history with the City of Wilmington; it is the event company that puts on the downtown Riverfront Farmers Market and other events.

You can view the full ordinance below.

Supporting Documents by Michael Praats on Scribd

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