The area around Riverfront Park lacks 800 sold-out shows, still “plenty of parking” within walking distance

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Riverfront Park was built without new parking, but the city said there was still “plenty of parking” downtown to accommodate concert and park enthusiasts. (Photo from Port City Daily / Alexandria Sands Williams)

WILMINGTON –– An estimated 3,200 cars are expected to drive downtown next weekend for three consecutive concerts at the city of Wilmington’s new $ 38 million Riverfront Park, an amphitheater run by Live Nation. Parking is a priority for many spectators, keen to enjoy live music along the downtown Riverwalk.

Within a 15-minute walk of the new site, there are just over 2,360 spaces to park vehicles. This does not mean that 800 late birds will not be able to find a place, but it does mean that they have to wear comfortable shoes because they are ready to go for a walk.

Riverfront Park has been open for a week now. He will hold his first major Live Nation concerts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. The sold-out Widespread Panic shows will each draw 7,200 fans (venue capacity) and inevitably attract a sea of ​​ticketless Spreadheads to tread the Riverwalk or join the pre- and post-concert festivities in bars and restaurants. of the region.

Since it was only an idea, the formerly named “North Waterfront Park” has been criticized for being imagined, designed and built without a single new public parking space. The city of Wilmington has remained determined over the years to conserve all of the 6.6 acres of green space and parkland, despite the judgments of city residents and public figures.

Former Wilmington Mayor and North Carolina Senator Harper Peterson was quoted in news articles in 2018, calling the project a ‘bridge to nowhere’ and wondering if most of the public would benefit from the amenities without one. sufficient parking in place.

Years later, critics dreaded the search for a seat before concerts, calling the parking situation a disaster even before the first headliners appeared on stage. According to the park’s operating plans, the city expects the shows to bring one car for three participants, or 3,200 cars for a sold-out event.

The immediate vicinity of the park –– between Harnett Street and Red Cross Street and between North 3rd Street and Cape Fear River –– has only 2,366 spaces. This leaves around 830 seats in the hall for a reserved show.

However, there are 3,078 additional spaces within a 30-minute walk.

City spokeswoman Jennifer Dandron said it was “plenty of parking space” for spectators as well as the daily downtown visitor. Parking in the downtown area was satisfactory for other special events. On July 4, the municipal car park alone accommodated around 3,000 cars. Around 4,000 cars were parked in city-owned spaces on the Saturday of the 2019 Azalea festival.

Across the city center, 4,078 spaces are located in several parking lots, including 1,579 on city-owned bridges, 650 on the New Hanover County Bridge and 1,849 on Cape Fear Community College bridges. The community college agrees to open its paid parking lots and terraces when the school or other partners are not using the facilities.

Depending on the city, there are also at least 1,066 street spots, with and without meters, within the limits of Market, 4th and Harnett streets. The paid private car parks offer more than 300 spaces for visitors.

All this adds up to 5,444 places.

Live Nation also posted a parking map on their website with nine recommended parking locations and suggested walking trails along Front Street and Nutt Street to the site entrance. The furthest location on the map is a parking lot behind the Rebellion Restaurant at 15 S. 2nd St. It is about a 22-minute walk from the venue, according to Google Maps.

The city’s director of community services, Amy Beatty, said in an interview last month that she envisioned bystanders parking all over the city center and then walking past businesses and choosing to step in to take a drink or an aperitif.

“A lot of people ask about parking, but what we’re really seeing is the positive,” Beatty said.

The Riverwalk, which will remain open during performances despite its large unobstructed view of the open-air stage, is another potential and more scenic pedestrian route to the venue.

Those who park a good distance from the park and don’t want to walk can hop on the free Port City Trolley to get to the Harnett Street stop near the amphitheater. The trolley makes 40-minute or one-hour loops through the city center; However, people will not be able to return by car, as the service ends at 8 p.m. on weekdays and 6 p.m. on weekends.

Wave Transit executive director Marie Parker said she would meet with Live Nation soon for “a site review and logistical discussion.”

“We’ll have a clearer picture after the first event to see if there’s a need,” Parker wrote in an email. “At this point we will be able to make a decision. “

In the meantime, the Wave board is voting on a revised route model for the streetcar that would serve the park more directly. If passed by the board at its July 22 meeting, the updated itinerary would go into effect on September 1, but the hours would remain the same.

“It will also serve the Convention Center, Embassy Suites, Chamber, The Aloft, Best Western and the Railroad Museum directly on Nutt St, which I am very excited about,” Parker wrote.

As with July 4, people should expect traffic delays leaving downtown after concerts. The city’s advice is to “arrive early, stay late” and be strategic when it comes to parking. Those parked north of rue de la Croix-Rouge will exit downtown faster than those parked south. Drivers should also consider which direction they are heading after the show when choosing a location in advance, Dandron suggested.

People are also encouraged to use carpooling instead of taking a car. The drop-off and pick-up location for Ubers, Lyfts, taxis and anyone else taking a taxi is 201 Harnett St.

In recent months, drivers have encountered problems ordering Uber and Lyft amid a nationwide driver shortage. A Lyft spokesperson said demand for rides after the Covid restrictions exceeded the number of employees, especially in early spring. Now rideshare company reports shorter wait times, down more than 15% in US

“We have added thousands of drivers over the past few weeks and this is already leading to a better driving experience,” the spokesperson said.

Customers of ridesharing apps are likely to see prices increase before and after concerts. When a large number of people request rides at the same time, especially during special events, the rates reflect the demand.


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