Full text: State of the City 2005 - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Full text: State of the City 2005

State of the City Address

January 18, 2005

 

Good evening.  On behalf of the entire Wilmington City Council, I want to welcome you to the inaugural State of the City address for thr City og Wilmington.  I want to thank all of you for being here and showing your support for your city.

 

Our purpose here tonight is to reflect on a truly exciting year in our community and to look forward to the awesome opportunities that lie ahead.  But before we do that, I’d like to take a moment to remember that we are a nation at war – at war against terrorism at home and throughout the world.  Let’s take a minute to lift up our thoughts and our prayers for those who serve in our armed forces – the men and women who are fighting in Iraq and around the world – fighting to protect our freedom, freedom that does not come free and a freedom that we must never take for granted.

 

On a personal note, on behalf of the entire City Council, we would like to thank our families for their support and patience.  Some of them are here tonight and others are watching on GTV.  We all realize the extra burden our service on the City Council places on each of you and we could not do this without your support.

 

This has been an incredible year for the City of Wilmington and for our community.  The successes we will outline tonight did not happen by themselves, but were accomplished by a focused, cooperative effort by so many in our community.  This council understands the value of cooperation, communication and partnership building – which have become the foundation of our work and the success of our city.  I’d like to thank our citizens who have committed their time to serve on our various city boards and commissions and so many others who have participated in community meetings, public hearings and provided suggestions and input.  This is your city and we need your continued involvement and support.

 

Let’s take a look at this past year:

 

 

Land Use / Planning

 

It’s no news that our city is growing.  Wilmington is a wonderful, exciting place.  Our challenge is to promote the type of QUALITY, SMART growth that will build a community to be enjoyed by generations to come.  Last year, at our initial budget work session, this council committed to step back and give clear direction to our city manager and our planning staff to focus on LONG TERM land use and traffic planning initiatives.

 

We are proud to report that just two months ago, we adopted Wilmington’s first Comprehensive Future Land Use Plan.  This has been discussed and worked on for many years, but I want to congratulate Wayne Clark and his entire planning staff team for developing this comprehensive plan, which will provide a road map to QUALITY development in our community for the next 20 years. 

 

On the heels of the Comprehensive Future Land Use Plan, our planning staff developed, and we adopted, a major corridors plan, outlining our opportunities to provide better development and redevelopment of our major corridors – Market Street, Carolina Beach Road, Oleander Drive and College Road.  We know we have challenges on these corridors and we are looking to the future to resolve some of these issues.

 

And just last month, our staff completed and we adopted the Unified Development Ordinance, better known as the “UDO.”  The UDO was developed after literally years of work by the UDO committee and our planning staff.  This ordinance, which updated our 20-year-old development regulations, provides a similar set of development guidelines for the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County.  I want to personally thank the UDO committee and our staff for this fine work.

 

As we look forward to 2005, we will continue to focus on long term planning to make this city a better place for all of us.

 

Economic Development – Downtown and Beyond

 

We are blessed to have such a beautiful and historic downtown and we have made great strides in downtown revitalization.  Again, through cooperation and partnerships, we are laying the foundations that will allow our downtown to evolve into a vibrant, exciting business hub while maintaining the history and heritage that truly sets it apart from other downtowns in North Carolina and throughout the country. 

 

With the cooperation and leadership of Wilmington Downtown, Inc., we have recently updated our Vision 20/20 plan, which will give us the guidelines for QUALITY            progress in our historic downtown and further improve the quality of life for our entire community.

 

But we are well beyond the “planning” stage downtown.  A plan without results is meaningless.  About nine months ago, Dr. Fred Eshelman announced that PPD would relocate its global headquarters to our northern downtown riverfront.  This single event will bring 1,000 jobs and serve as a foundation and stimulus for further improvements to that area.  This decision provided the opportunity for the redevelopment plans for the adjacent Almont Shipping property along the waterfront with the opportunity for more exciting news in the future.  This has truly been an accomplishment of teamwork and a sincere partnership between PPD, Almont Shipping, the City of Wilmington and our partners at New Hanover County.  But I have to say, this would not be a reality without the commitment of Dr. Eshelman and PPD.  We look forward to continuing and strengthening this partnership.

 

Not far from PPD, also on our historic riverfront, will be Wilmington’s Convention Center.  We have met our major challenges and the convention center is close to becoming a reality.  The site has been selected, and we are in the final stages of developing our land purchase contract and finalizing our general development agreement.  The room occupancy tax to fund the center is in place and we look forward to completing the final design this year and breaking ground in 2006.

 

These are high profile, signature projects, but there is so much more.  We continue to expand our parking decks in downtown, providing convenience for our downtown shoppers, workers and visitors. 

 

The completion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway is scheduled for this year, providing a convenient major downtown gateway into the city.

 

Taylor Homes and the Jervay projects are being redeveloped into mixed income and mixed-use developments, which will provide more opportunities than ever for desirable, affordable housing for our citizens.

 

And the much needed, and long overdue, new police headquarters on Bess Street is in the final design stages with construction set to begin later this year.

 

And speaking of police, I have to pause to mention the efforts of our new police chief, Ralph Evangelous.  After an extensive nationwide search, Chief Evangelous emerged as the clear frontrunner for our Chief of Police position.  He brings the skills and focus we were looking for and we have not been disappointed.  He has brought clear common sense focus to our crime challenges downtown and throughout the city and we look forward to supporting his efforts in the future.

 

But economic development is not limited to downtown.  This past year we welcomed the innovative Mayfaire mixed use project in northeast Wilmington , which has received tremendous reviews.

 

And from an economic development and new job creation standpoint, the recruitment of Verizon Wireless to our city stands alone to this point.  Bringing over 1,000 new jobs and an investment in excess of $20,000,000, Verizon Wireless immediately became one of the largest private employers in the City of Wilmington.  As you know, Verizon could have located this call center most anywhere, but they chose Wilmington, North Carolina.  The recruitment of Verizon was a cooperative team effort led by Scott Satterfield of Wilmington Industrial Development, the State of North Carolina and locally by the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County.  It was an honor to work with Scott, Chairman of the County Commissioners Bobby Greer, the entire Wilmington City Council and the New Hanover County Commissioners to make this a reality for our community.  These jobs are already making a difference in the lives of many of our citizens.

 

The creation of new, better paying jobs will continue to be a priority of this council.

 

Parks

 

After the recruitment of Verizon to Wilmington, their leaders told us that quality of life was a decisive factor in their decision to relocate here.  This council believes that park and recreational space are essential in providing this quality of life.  This year we opened the 58-acre Halyburton Park just off 17th Street.  This is the first significant park opened in the City of Wilmington in the past 35 years, but it will not be the last.  Just last month, we entered into a partnership with the North Carolina Land Trust for a long-term lease on a 39-acre site located behind Alderman School.  We plan to utilize this tract as a passive park with a conservation preserve that citizens can use for recreation and environmental education.

 

This past year, we also committed a significant portion of our recreation capital improvement budget for planned improvements to Maides Park, which is located just off Princess Place and Market Streets.  A local citizens group is engaged in providing direction for this effort.

 

We have also received a $3,000,000 grant from the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to build a storm water improvement facility on property just off South College Road.  In addition to improving our storm water quality, this property will be maintained as passive open space for our citizens to enjoy. 

 

Open space and recreational facilities enhance our quality of life and encourage economic development.

 

Transportation

 

If I can shift gears, let’s talk a moment about transportation.  Transportation and traffic infrastructure improvements are at the top of our priority list and I know they are at the top of your list as well.

 

Even in a year in which we were able to reduce your property taxes, we actually increased funding for street, sidewalk and traffic improvements.

 

One example is the increased funding for the city’s Neighborhood Traffic Management Program, which is a program designed to study neighborhoods individually and provides specific solutions tailored to each neighborhood.  This increased funding has allowed our city traffic engineers to double the number of neighborhoods studied this year.  At the same time, we provided increased capital funding to support these recommended solutions.

 

We also continue to work in partnership with our representatives with the North Carolina Department of Transportation on thoroughfare improvements and we are pleased that the Martin Luther King, Jr. Parkway is on track to open this year.  The I-140/Highway 17 bypass is on schedule and the Military Cutoff widening is back on track.  We are also forging a partnership with the DOT and New Hanover County to preserve the right of way to extend Military Cutoff from Market Street to the Highway 17 bypass.

 

We have also partnered with New Hanover County to combine our public transit systems into one authority to provide expanded, more efficient bus service to our community.

 

Traffic and transportation improvements will continue to top our priority list.

 

Partnerships

 

As I noted earlier, the foundation for our success has been built on cooperation and partnerships.  Let me take a minute to mention a few of these partnerships which we have developed and look forward to strengthening in the future:

 

New Hanover County – We have partnered with the county on many initiatives this year, some of which I have mentioned tonight.  But there are many others.  From economic initiatives to transportation to a combined emergency operations center, we will continue to value and expand our partnership with New Hanover County and I want to thank Chairman Greer and all of the commissioners for their leadership this past year.

 

Greater Wilmington Chamber of Commerce – The chamber took the lead and initiative in promoting the passage of Amendment One last year, which will provide another jobs creation tool for the city to consider.  The chamber has also agreed to form the Mayor’s Economic Development Roundtable.  This will be a group of local CEO’s who will work as a “board of directors” for our regional economic development efforts and strategies – yet another resource in bringing in more jobs.

 

UNCW – A new partnership between the city and UNCW is beginning to show results.  Last year, Chancellor Depaolo and I established a task force made up of city and university staff, along with interested citizens to address a variety of issued related to UNCW’s impact on city neighborhoods.  The university is certainly stepping up and proving they are a valuable and concerned partner in our community.

 

Cape Fear Community College – We have forged a strong partnership with the community college during this past year.  The exchange of properties owned by the college and the city provides land necessary for new development on the northern riverfront while enabling the community college to unite its core downtown campus.  This agreement has opened the door for future cooperation on land use issues, downtown pedestrian access and traffic flow improvements in our downtown area.

 

WAVE - As I noted earlier, the merger of the city and county transit operations will provide an expanded, more efficient system.  With the help of the NC Department of Transportation, we will enjoy a new, centrally located transit facility in Wilmington.

 

Wilmington Downtown, Inc. – As I noted, Wilmington Downtown continues to be a proactive partner with the city in planning and implementing positive changes in our downtown.

 

Wilmington Industrial Development – WID continues to be the economic development and job creation engine in our region.  The Verizon success alone indicates how valuable this resource is to our area.  At the time, the Verizon announcement was the single largest job creation in the state last year.  This would not have happened without Scott Satterfield and Wilmington Industrial Development.

 

NC Department of Transportation – Lanny Wilson, our representative on the North Carolina Board of Transportation, has been a tremendous resource for Wilmington and our community.  We look forward to continuing our partnership with Lanny and DOT.

 

Look to the Future

If this past year was a year of planning and foundation building, the coming year will be one of construction – literally as well as figuratively.  In the coming year, we anticipate:

 

-         The groundbreaking for the new PPD world headquarters.

-         Completion of the final design for the convention center, paving the way for construction to begin in 2006.

-         Construction of the northern riverfront parking deck.

-         Final design and ground breaking on the Water Street parking deck.

-         Beginning construction on the long awaited police headquarters.

 

And there’s more, but you are probably on overload by now.

 

We, on this city council, are proud of these accomplishments and we look forward to the opportunities of 2005.  It is clear that these successes resulted from cooperation, partnerships and consensus building on the City Council and with our partners throughout the area. 

 

Personally, I am proud of the cooperation and work ethic of this City Council and I consider it an honor to serve with each of you. 

 

So tonight, we celebrate together, as one community, and with your continued support, we pledge to continue to make Wilmington the city you, the citizens, deserve.

 

God bless this City Council, this community and especially you the citizens who make this such a special place to live.

 

Thank you.

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