Business Groups Seek to Define 'Downtown'

Wilmington, NC – Businesses in the Wilmington's riverfront commercial district want their area, and just their area, to be officially defined as 'Downtown.'

Wilmington Downtown Inc. and other groups are lobbying local media to restrict their use of the term 'downtown' to the city's Central Business District, an area bordered by the Martin Luther King Parkway in the north, Nunn Street in the south, and 5th Street to the east.

Advocates says they're concerned stories about crime in the surrounding residential neighborhoods scare away shoppers and other potential visitors.

Wilmington Downtown Inc. director Susi Hamilton points to the killing of store clerk Mohammad Abdelhamid. The murder took place at 7th and Ann, and Hamilton remembers hearing the address referred to as 'downtown.'

Hamilton said she gets calls especially from women afraid of coming downtown.

"People say, 'Isn't downtown dangerous? You know, we understand there's a lot of crime downtown.' All of those things," Hamilton said.

Downtown proponents also recommend that residential blocks around the Central Business District be known as 'historic residential neighborhoods.' Everything from the border of the zoned Historic Residential District east to the suburban edge would be defined as 'urban neighborhoods' under the plan.

Wilmington's Community Services Director Dewey Harris, whose department is helping facilite talks between the definition's advocates and the media, says a defined downtown would help in marketing campaigns, by limiting the term to "those areas where people worship and dine and do the typical things that tourists do."

WHQR News will participate in discussions about defining downtown. The station currently has no official policy regarding the term.

Star News Executive Editor Tim Griggs said he's willing to hear the groups out, but doesn't believe the term has been a problem for his paper in the past. The Star News, said Griggs, uses addresses in crime stories, instead of neighborhoods.

Map distributed at 1/26/07 meeting between proponents and media