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
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
Let’s take a look at this past year:
It’s no news that our city is growing.
We are proud to report that just two months ago, we adopted
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 –
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
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.
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
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
Not far from PPD, also on our historic riverfront, will be
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
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
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
The creation of new, better paying jobs will continue to be a priority of this council.
After the recruitment of Verizon to
This past year, we also committed a significant portion of our recreation capital improvement budget for planned improvements to
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
Open space and recreational facilities enhance our quality of life and encourage economic development.
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
We have also partnered with
Traffic and transportation improvements will continue to top our priority list.
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:
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.
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.