Staff photo by Daniel Bowden
Wilmington City Council members, New Hanover County Commissioners and city staff celebrate the completion of the Third Street improvement project with a ribbon cutting on Friday, March 15.
Mayor Bill Saffo, members of the Wilmington City Council and members of the board of County Commissioners met with city staff on the steps of City Hall on March 15 in downtown Wilmington for a ribbon cutting ceremony commemorating the completion of improvements to Third Street.
This $10.4 million project replaced aged sewer and water lines, installed new underground electrical utilities, updated sidewalks, repaved roadways and added new landscaping between Market Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Some pieces of infrastructure replaced during the process were over 100 years old.
Prior to cutting the ribbon, Mayor Saffo thanked city staff, the North Carolina Department of Transportation and the general public for their help and patience with the project.
“This has been one of the biggest projects we have completed to this date, since I’ve been on city council,” Saffo said. “I am very, very proud of that.”
Following Saffo’s speech, Jim Quinn, chairman of the board for Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, took the podium and said he thought the project was an example of excellent cooperation between all of the different departments required to make the project come together.
Karen Fussell, division engineer for the North Carolina Department of Transportation, praised efforts to beautify downtown Wilmington. After being away from Wilmington for 23 years, she said she was ecstatic to be back in the city.
“To my pleasant surprise,” Fussell said, “when I moved back, this project was underway. It was the best homecoming present I could have asked for.”
Fussell also noted that NCDOT has plans to replace the Third Street bridge in 2019.
“It will have some amenities and touches that will fit in nicely with what you see here today,” Fussell said.
Jim Bitto, chair of the Downtown Business Alliance, expressed “sincere appreciation” for the project on behalf of all downtown business owners.
“We believe that you don’t get a second chance to make a good first impression,” Bitto said. “We now have a fantastic first impression for visitors coming into town.”
The two-year project began in August 2011 as part of the city’s five-year improvement plan. More than half of the plan’s $41 million budget has been allocated to improving roadways.
Also included in the five-year improvement plan are updates to the riverfront and improvements to area parks.