The Wilmington Housing Authority is poised to apply for the federal grant that would make possible the revitalization of the city’s distressed Southside neighborhood. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release the grant application in June. And to be a contender for this thirty million-dollar award, Wilmington must demonstrate significant community buy-in. The Authority already enjoys support from the City, the police, and several area nonprofits, but their final frontier is engaging the local business community.
So far, the Authority can count eighty stakeholders—that is, partners who are invested in helping to turn the area surrounding the Hillcrest Public Housing Community into a safer, more attractive, family-friendly, and mixed-income neighborhood. The Authority’s aiming for a renaissance similar to that seen on Wilmington’s north side—the Brooklyn arts area—and they’ve already convinced the City to fund Southside crosswalks. Waste Management has pledged to help purge urban blight, and Habitat for Humanity is already renovating distressed housing. This is according to planner Paul D’Angelo, who says he’s now planning to target local business owners.
"I know, for example, the 'industrial triangle' that’s down in the Southside—they’ve got a couple of leaders of businesses down there that have kind of stepped to the plate wanting to start a business coalition down on the Southside. And I think, seeing that type of organization? It’s great to have a champion there, and also gets people’s eyes to see there’s some businesses grouping together, and they’re seeing some potential in economic development and job creation on the Southside."
D’Angelo says he’s hoping to engage Cape Fear-area business leaders via door-to-door knocking, City Council and County Commission presentations, and perhaps a Chamber of Commerce breakfast. He says he also hopes some of the area’s largest employers—such as GE, Corning, and the New Hanover Regional Medical Center—will pledge their support to the revitalization project.