Monday, July 22, 2024

Wilmington Downtown Inc. president resigns after a year-and-a-half on the job

Holly Childs took over as president and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc. in January 2021. She announced her resignation, effective immediately. (Port City Daily/file)

WILMINGTON — Holly Childs, president of Wilmington Downtown Inc., has resigned from her position effective immediately.

Taking the helm in January 2021, Childs has worked over the last year and a half to shape economic development in the city’s downtown area. WDI promotes downtown to visitors, tourists and residents, supports existing businesses and acts as a liaison for various interest groups.

“It’s much more than developing a business park or a lifestyle center; it’s creating a community asset and jobs center,” Childs told Port City Daily in December 2020 when her hiring was announced. “That’s exactly the kind of impact I want to have in Wilmington with my work here.”

She returned to her North Carolina roots from Morgantown, West Virginia, for the job. There she spent eight years working for a public development authority, a public-private economic development organization and a private commercial real estate development firm.

Childs told Port City Daily in 2020 her previous positions would help shape her leadership role in Wilmington. WDI’s mission more than 40 years ago was built on marrying the public-private sectors to grow the economic future of the area. It manages the 70-block Municipal Service District, providing added services to improve safety, cleanliness and the vitality of downtown.

With the support and direction of WDI’s board, Childs was tasked with refocusing the organization’s efforts away from events and gearing resources toward creating new jobs and investment in downtown.

And Childs did that after canceling WDI’s free concert series, Downtown Sundown, after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. The series started over a decade ago and drew up to 2,000 people a week to its shows featuring local musicians.

Childs told Port City Daily she was instead focusing on transformative projects, such as Project Grace, the Gateway Project and the Soda Pop District. 

Under Childs’ leadership, WDI launched the Downtown Economic Development series in April to create community awareness around these projects and the impact they will have on the city’s future. She also implemented the Microloan Program, with the help of a $25,000 donation from Duke Energy Foundation to assist businesses facing pandemic struggles.

Most recently, Childs worked with the city and Municipal Services District, established in 2016. The MSD advisory committee supported a five-year contract for WDI to provide management services to the 70-block downtown area. This includes more than half-a-million dollars in the city’s fiscal year 2023 budget, approved by council May 17.

Last fall, Childs was integral in implementing WDI’s Downtown Street Outreach Specialist Pilot Project, an initiative funded by the Municipal Service District. The one-year pilot program was approved in mid-August by the council-appointed MSD Advisory Committee. It included hiring a liaison, Jack Morris, who has social work experience to help downtown Wilmington’s unhoused community connect with local organizations, to improve quality of life and lessen barriers to service.

Sources confirmed Childs resigned to return to West Virginia to be closer to family.

Port City Daily reached out to Childs and Wilmington Downtown Inc. without reply. The article will be updated upon response.

Update: WDI confirmed Childs’ resignation in a press release sent to all media Thursday afternoon.

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