Downtown Wilmington is the essence of the city. But, when someone crosses the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge from Leland and Brunswick County, the first thing, they see is the SouthSide part of the city.
Over the course of time, while other area of town seemed to be revitalizing, the perceptions of the SouthSide area were skewed with drivers seeing more negative aspects of the area…”It’s not pretty. It’s notsafe. It looks rundown.”
The Wilmington Housing Authority is focusing on the SouthSide, in particular the Hillcrest neighborhood.
The Wilmington Authority received an initial Planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the grant created a Choice Neighborhoods Transformation Plan for the rebuilding of the Hillcrest Public Housing Community and revitalizing the surrounding area. The pending Implementation grant with the application, due in September, will help pay for urban planners, local businesses and the City to help implement the transformation of the SouthSide area as it was described by residents and community members.
The Choice Neighborhoods program will focus on three main goals: Housing, People and Neighborhood.
As an early start to the Transformation Plan, Paul D’Angelo, the Choice Neighborhoods Program Manager, is determined to reopen the community campus in the Hillcrest Neighborhood.
The Community Opportunity Recreation Resource and Education (COR^2E) Center is the proposed new name for the community campus. Funding for the center is currently in discussion with hopes of a grand opening scheduled for later this spring. The center will help provide health, youth, educational and other needed programs for residents. It will also offer childcare for the area and after school programs to keep kids engaged in the early evening hours.
Housing units in Hillcrest will be rebuilt in phases. There are plans to add units at Jervay as an early start, as well as units that will focus on our aging population in Hillcrest. Based on feedback of residents and the larger community, it is hoped the historic architecture that is so prominent in downtown Wilmington will aid the design of the units.
“We need help moving these ideas forward. The Housing Authority can’t do this revitalization alone…it takes a community,” D’Angelo points out.
Concerns of the residents were compiled through surveys and public meetings that were held in the area. A few of the strategies for the Southside include:
• Improved neighborhood connectivity; For example: sidewalks, bike lanes, street crossings, increase access to fresh food and also to public transportation.
• Increased job opportunities in the neighborhood through the COR^2E Center, Economic Development and a job-training center.
• Build housing that is energy efficient and well designed. There are incentives to include mixed income housing.
• Increased park and open green space; this includes the community parks, as well as playgrounds and a community garden.
For safety concerns in the neighborhood, adding additional street lighting and emergency call boxes would greatly benefit and help the area.
“I’m very optimistic about us receiving the grant and this could have a major regional impact in a few years. Downtown Wilmington/SouthSide is the spirit of the city,” Terri Burhans, Cape Fear Housing Land Trust, said.