WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Organizers are eyeing an expansion of the successful Downtown Alive program, which gave restaurants and retail shops the opportunity to take up more space outdoors to allow for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parts of Front and Princess Streets are shut down Thursday and Friday nights and Saturdays and Sundays to allow businesses to occupy more of the side walks and parking spaces. COVID-19 shut down restaurants for several weeks at the beginning of the pandemic. Under Phase 2 restrictions put in place by Gov. Roy Cooper to slow the spread of COVID-19, the businesses are operating with a limited indoor capacity. The program gives them more room to spread out and serve customers.
Downtown Alive began in June, through a partnership between the City of Wilmington, Cool Wilmington, the Downtown Business Alliance and Wilmington Downtown Inc.
Terry Espy, the president of DBA, posted on Facebook that the organizers and business owners plan to go to the Aug. 18 city council meeting to thank the board for working with them to make this possible. Espy said they also plan to ask for the city’s approval to expand the program.
“This program has successfully enabled many of our restaurants and retailers to open their doors safely and has enhanced our Downtown environment since June 25th,” Espy wrote. “Due to the continued restrictions related to COVID-19 and the harsh reality that we will not see the end of phase 3 for some time, we are looking to expand ‘Downtown Alive’ which is set to end on Sept 7th. We would like to include restaurants/retailers in other areas not currently located within the closed streets with a ‘proposed’ parklet concept and extend it thru to Nov 29.. The ‘proposed parklet concept’ will be active 7 days a week.”
Under the parklet concept, Espy said the program will open up to more downtown businesses.
Business owners who apply for the program will be assigned a parking space or spaces in order to utilize that outdoor space. Businesses outside the current Downtown Alive footprint could participate.
Right now, Downtown Alive includes the following road closures:
- Front Street bounded by Market Street and Chestnut Street.
- Front Street bounded by Market Street and Dock Street.
- Princess Street bounded by Front Street and 2nd Street.
- Princess Street bounded by 2nd Street and 3rd Street
If city council approves the plan, businesses outside of those blocks could utilize the parking spaces without road closures.
Heavy planters, barricades or vehicle mitigation devices would be put up to mark off the parking spaces.
Espy said more businesses would like to be a part of the program. She said the Cotton Exchange, the Basics, RUMCOW and Copper Penny have expressed interest.