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Wilmington’s Northside Park and Entertainment You Love!

MOONSHOT #6–AN EASY WAY IN AND OUT OF WILMINGTON—“THE LAST MILE!”


FACT:

In only 1-2 years, you and 7,000 other fans will see live world-class entertainment like Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Phish, and Dave Matthews at our very own Northside Park, booked by Live Nation, who books those acts for Red Hat in Raleigh and Ascend in Nashville (similarly sized venues). Nutt street will be extended behind the Park for easier access.


IMAGINE ELECTRIC SHUTTLES WHISKING YOU INSTANTLY TO KEY DESTINATIONS:

When you walk out of the Park onto Nutt Street, you are greeted by a fleet of 44 electric shuttles each holding 23 fans, or over 1,000 passenger capacity. You are silently whisked away at 15-20 mph to stops at CFCC, the Wilmington Rail Trail entrance up to the new bus station at 3rd or the final Rail Trail destination at McRae Street where inexpensive parking and a fleet of Uber/Lyft cars and cabs take care of getting you home or other destinations with minimum delay, congestion and the continuation of a safe, enjoyable ride. If you had stopped to chat with friends, the first shuttles will be back in a few minutes, ready to move another 1,000 fans.


Live Nation will offer up to 20 such performances a year at first, but don’t be surprised if it soon grows to 50 performances. And your trip will get sweeter too, as art, trees and flowers line the illuminated route along the Rail Trail. Plus, the terminus at McRae will be growing before your eyes, from open guarded parking fields into the equivalent of a urban subway stop in a “hot” new part of town. There will be ample parking, but now also food and entertainment, and housing including the “affordable housing” we lack today, if we plan for it. There will be growing office space and the elements of a TechHub.


CAR FREE LIVING AND COMMUTING

Live there, and one has no reason to even own a car. Save the exorbitant costs of car

ownership, pay off student loans and accumulate savings. Residents and users alike will have the best, easiest access to Wilmington downtown for more TechHub and other well paying jobs—by shuttles or other car free access by bike, electric bike and scooter, a short run or a 20 minute fun walk into town. No cars required or allowed!


IN SUMMARY, ONE OF THE BEST “LAST MILE” SOLUTIONS IN THE COUNTRY

There is enough open land at that northeast town terminus to make it the parking destination for most commuters and visitors if demand and public sentiment support it, The electric shuttles would supplement the other transportation options. The Rail Trail is wide enough to keep shuttles and personal transportation devices separate, thus far safer than using City sidewalks and streets, to everyone’s benefit.


Imagine how many cars this keeps out of downtown, avoiding congestion, wasted time, money and pollution. And consider how much economic development these corridors stimulate as has been seen in NYC, DC, Atlanta and other cities. Approximately 2,000 of those 7,000 fans will come from out of town, filling hotels and near-Park parking lots. Energetic young fans will undertake long walks to remote parking. For others, there are not good alternatives. As we have noted in our previous blog on April 16, “Moving Thousands of Visitors in Wilmington Downtown,” no one wants to build parking downtown if they can avoid it. There will be improvised solutions like buses to remote shopping center parking, but this is a better way.


With inexpensive last mile parking available, developers can provide less parking downtown and offer office and retail space for less expense as a result. The City could reach agreement with downtown developers to finance a portion of the remote park and shuttle system as a less expensive trade off against comparable parking garage space downtown, in a win-win strategy.


THE OVERWHELMING ECONOMIC CASE—SHUTTLES VS. PARKING GARAGES

Here’s the trade off: We can buy those 44 electric shuttles—sturdy and safe with enclosed sides for a total of $1million or a little more. For the same $1million that moves 1,000 people repetitively, we can build a parking garage for only 50 cars, or about $20,000 per space in 2018 median data, according to parking authority WG Inc.


Of course, we would need 500-1,000 spaces or more, costing 5-10 times the cost of the shuttles and less flexible. The City and downtown developers would save a fortune in providing less parking. Construction that costs less results in lower rents, also meaning restaurants and shops can charge less. A more affordable and desirable downtown for all. Great for the entire region that depends on Wilmington for the services and amenities cities uniquely offer.


SHOULD ELECTRIC SHUTTLES REMAIN A PERMANENT DOWNTOWN FEATURE?

Development north of Market St. will gain momentum as the Pier 33 complex and the Northside Park come on line. One has only to look at the design document for the Park to see it surrounded by “big box” neighbors, as downtown inevitably grows. This infill development will occur over five years or more. Capable of 20 mph speeds and with upgrades available for full featured street operation, these same vehicles could be the inexpensive main shuttle solution for downtown usage. Shuttles supplement cars as the way to travel many downtown routes where 20 mph is the average speed for traffic in cities.


IS THIS “LAST MILE STRATEGY” TIMELY WITH PARK COMPLETION?

Developing this trail is not a new idea. It was in “Vision 2020”, in 2007. The City Council

approved the idea five years ago, and may re-approve it this week. There’s a long history of enthusiasm, but no action. Why would this time be different? First, we have an appropriate mix of interests now at the table, including two key new groups—respected developers and our Arts Council. Second, we are now introducing “The Last Mile” concept with electric shuttles and a major parking/commercial/residential center at McRae Street and the several open blocks continuing on to Tenth Street or beyond, certain to grow into the cluster. This is a profound change in the economic development and financing case for the project.


LAST MILE BECOMES MOONSHOT #6

Three things are essential immediately. First, many actions have to be taken, and many

problems overcome to make this a timely solution. So, a highly motivated public/private task force must be assembled. Second, all actions/problems need to be listed and tackled in parallel with schedules. Done serially, the actions will take too many years. Third, the perfect must not be the enemy of the good. Solve the problem with interim and experimental solutions, letting the final “perfect” solution evolve in phases.


Thus, in Phase 1 the path could be graded and coated, used temporarily till final specifications and subsequent phases satisfy every condition. Initial parking could be in guarded open fields. Exceptions to innovation killing regulations must be obtained. A City Management that does much methodically and well, needs to first do this quickly—course correcting on the fly or in subsequent phases. Highly motivated private sector entrepreneurs should lead the way.


Are you ready to lead this transformative project?

Bill Graham

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Renaissance Wilmington Foundation

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