Waffle House latest example of downtown growth

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The new Wilmington Waffle House is the latest restaurant to open in an effort to bring more businesses to the N. Front St. area.

Ed Wolverton, President and CEO of Wilmington Downtown Inc., said his group and others in the city continue to try and bring in more development on the mostly untapped land or abandoned buildings in the north part of the city.

"For the first 150 years of the city, Market and Front was the center of commerce," said Wolverton. "Over time we have seen a steady progression beyond that."

Wolverton said mom and pop shops are the backbone of the downtown economy, but that chains and other national stores can still bring economic development to the north end of downtown.

"We are going to continue to attract those and to honor those and nurture those mom and pop stores," he said. "I think that we have to recognize that there could be an opportunity for more national chains. We need to make sure if they do come, then they come in a sensitive way."

WDI wants chains like Waffle House to change to to the community around them, which the new store did when it moved into the old Soapbox Lounge building that was vacant for almost five years.

"It needs to appreciate the height and mass and scale of existing buildings," said Wolverton. "This is not a freeway. They do not need to have big signs, so that you can see it from a mile away. It is a different vibe, so especially something that is more walkable with pedestrian orientation is key."

Mary Tyler Lillich, a student at Cape Fear Community College, said the new business is a great addition to the area.

"The only thing that we really have is our Port City Java in the union and this now," she said. "You kind of have to walk down if you want more things, but obviously this is cheaper for college students."

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