We couldn’t be happier at the prospect. It’s been a long time coming, and the history of halting attempts between the town and landowners to create more appealing parking in that area of town has been rocky and rough, to say the least. There have been numerous starts and stops, and many of the potholes created in the road toward a true municipal lot on West Main Street stem from mistrust and misunderstandings. It’s refreshing to hear that landowners and town government have been willing to work together to find solutions. Kudos to all involved for their efforts.
Why is something as seemingly simple as a municipal parking lot so critical to the recovery of West Main Street? In so many ways it shows why public-private partnerships are vital to a vibrant downtown economy. Wilmington has a long way to go to reach that vibrancy once again. But it will never be accomplished without people and groups working together. Merchants, government, and organizations like the chamber of commerce must all find common ground and agree on shared goals and visions. Without those efforts, all of the stakeholders tend to snipe and fight. Those are things the community just can’t afford; not now in the recovery from Irene, and not in the future when the devastation from August is a distant memory.
There are so many projects that can enhance the village core. The parking lot is just one part of the overall picture. A river walk, sidewalk extensions, and a transportation center are just a few of the ideas that have been proposed over the past 15 years as ways to improve and upgrade the village. They all have merit. They all require landowners and government to work together.
We can’t wait for the town’s long-term recovery plan to be fleshed out. We know there will be even more great ideas incorporated into that document. But without the committed effort to bring them to fruition, we won’t really see the kind of redevelopment Wilmington truly needs. That committed effort will have to be borne by everyone in the community. Everyone must also take a long view, that things won’t be done overnight. It will take sustained effort over time to accomplish the things that need to be accomplished. The West Main Street parking lot is a perfect example of how long it can take to get something done that seems so basic, so necessary.
It’s important to recognize what has been done here, and what the parking lot symbolically means to other initiatives. Working together, public and private, is the surest way to achieve not just a recovery, but a rebirth in Wilmington.