Local group wants to move downtown Wilmington’s Kenan Fountain to Renaissance Park

June 19, 2019

Article in Port City Daily:

WILMINGTON — The Kenan Memorial Fountain, it’s grandiose, and nice to look at, but according to the Renaissance Wilmington Foundation (along with the many drivers who have crashed or had near-misses because of it), it’s a hazard that should be moved.

More specifically, Renaissance Wilmington Foundation (RWF) would like to see it moved to Renaissance Park. A planned park that would be located along the riverfront near the Embassy Suites.

The fountain sits in the middle of Market and 5th streets as drivers ravel in and out of Wilmington on one of the city’s busiest corridors. Drivers are forced to navigate around the fountain in tight half-circles on already-narrow streets.

On Tuesday, President and CEO of RWF Bill Graham wrote that his organization would like to be the solution to the problematic location of Kenan Fountain.

“Besides hurricane damage, there have been periodic vehicle hits and expensive repairs. While we are advocates for ‘traffic calming’ like brick streets and opening selected streets to bikes and alternative vehicles, no question this one is excessively hazardous,” Graham wrote.

Time to move the fountain?

Graham wrote in response to a recent Wilmington Star-News editorial, which stated “it’s time to move the fountain,” based both on its inconvenient location and its namesake, William Rand Kenan Sr. (the fountain was donated by his son, William Rand Kenan Jr., in his parents’ honor).

“It’s become quite clear that Kenan Sr. not only was commander of a white-supremacist paramilitary force during the 1898 Wilmington coup, he was responsible for some particularly heinous crimes, including mowing down 25 black residents in a matter of seconds with machine gun fire,” Star’s editorial board wrote.

While the Star-News was emphatically in favor of moving the fountain, it only made the suggestion that it could perhaps be moved to Greenfield Lake. RWF offered a more concrete plan and has the potential means and a location to put the fountain.

“We will be requesting the City to consider this move, and of course, media and public endorsement is a critical step. We have no present knowledge of the City’s plans to refurbish the Kenan Memorial or whether funds are budgeted. We also do not know if Kenan heirs might support the move and help with the cost,” Graham said.

The proposed move to Renaissance Park would be an ideal location, but funding to get the fountain there is an issue, he said.

“A close-up examination of the Fountain and surrounding bench and decorative elements should convince anyone that the present location is untenable, and we do feel strongly that relocation to what we call Renaissance Park is ideal with many times the level of visibility inherent in the location, and a historically appropriate context for enduring preservation,” Graham said.


The future of the park

Renaissance Park is seeing some potential setbacks in funding to complete the project as the City of Wilmington faces about $4 million in shortfall for the North Waterfront Park.

“Possible sponsors of Renaissance Park have told us they are seeking to assist the City there [at North Waterfront Park] first, in various ways. So, we do have an approved design but do not have a plan to fund the park. We have interest from several parties and discussions are ongoing. Given these facts, we cannot forecast a completion date other than to say we believe endorsement of moving the fountain to the Park would create an additional impetus to move forward and gain public support and funding,” Graham said.

So what would it take to actually get the fountain moved? For Graham, it would just take the support of the city and the public.

“With City and public support, this is not a wish. It is a practical solution to a serious impediment to public safety and protecting a vulnerable cultural artifact that should not be destroyed by inattention. Renaissance Wilmington Foundation seeks to surface ideas and plans that will make the Wilmington Region a world-class place to live, work and play,” he said.

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