DELIBERATE AND METHODICAL PROCESS LEADS TO A MUNICIPAL SERVICE DISTRICT IN DOWNTOWN WILMINGTON

Over 1,000 communities across North America use Municipal Service Districts (MSD) to fund and provide extra safety, cleaning, marketing and beautification programs for their Downtowns.  Also called Business Improvement Districts, this self-determination tool has been used for almost three decades to provide programs that benefit the ratepayers in a defined area by using revenues generated by an assessment on real and personal property within the district.

MSD’s are common in North Carolina.  Over 55 communities have created MSD’s to help improve their Downtowns.  The list includes large cities such as Charlotte (that has three in their “uptown”), Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham and Winston Salem.  Smaller cities near Wilmington also have MSD’s including Wilson, Clinton, New Bern, Whiteville and others.   

Recognizing this potential tool to help further grow and transform Downtown, the City’s Vision 2020 Plan (completed in 2004) recommended studying the idea.  In 2010, WDI first examined the concept and even launched a pilot program that included volunteer ambassadors roaming the sidewalks to provide information and assistance to local and out-of-town visitors.  While many people liked the concept, some merchants, property owners and others were skeptical.  After significant debate, civic leaders ultimately decided the time was not right to move forward.

As Downtown began experiencing a development boom in 2014, merchants, property owners and civic leaders realized that Downtown had more needs than the City government could address.  That lead to a new process to evaluate an MSD in Wilmington.  A task force of property and business owners with divergent views was created to lead the effort.  They took a deliberate and thoughtful approach that included community meetings, public surveys and trips to other cities to see how their MSD’s function.  In addition, the evaluation committee benchmarked existing City services for Downtown and identified enhanced programs that the MSD could provide.

Based on over two years of work, analysis and much public input, the task force and WDI recommended that the City create an MSD.  The City then developed a detailed business plan specifying a proposed assessment rate, services, improvements to be provided and a management structure. A plan was published on September 9, 2016, that followed the central business district boundaries.

After mailing property owners within the proposed district and publishing a legal notice, City Council held a public hearing on October 18, 2016.  The hearing was continued and Council accepted additional public comments at their meeting on November 15, 2016.  Based on input from over two dozen people, City Council voted 6 to 1 to move forward.  A second vote took place on December 6, 2016.  The City Council voted to approve the establishment of an MSD by a vote of 6 to 1.  The District began operating on July 1, 2017.

The City created and appointed an MSD Advisory Committee to provide input to City Council about services and programs.  After a public request for proposal process, the City of Wilmington selected WDI to manage and direct programs on behalf of the district. 

Reports and Studies:

Click here to see the MSD Annual Report for FY 17-18

See WDI's request for a security and cleaning subcontractor by using this link.

Review the City’s Request for Proposals with this link.

To see the City's official report follow this link.  

To find out if your property is in the CBD, use this link.  

To learn how ambassadors can change downtown follow this link.

Click here to read the November 2014 Brochure

Click here to read the May 2015 Brochure

Click here to view survey results