City Manager Grant Goings Highlights Downtown Development
During the Wilson Chamber of Commerce City/County Manager Breakfast, City Manager Grant Goings re-capped recent development projects in Historic Downtown Wilson. He highlighted several projects currently underway.
Wilson Economic Development, Barnes Street
The new office provides a downtown location in a beautifully redeveloped building. EDC moved into the new facility in early April 2019.
“When groups come to Wilson to meet with EDC, it’s usually because they are considering investing a lot of money in Wilson,” said Goings. “First impressions matter.”
Whirligig Station, Goldsboro Street
The 90+ unit residential project has been under construction for several years and will begin leasing in late spring 2019, with residents expected to move in later in the summer. Goings touted the importance of having downtown living options, especially for younger residents. He mentioned a survey conducted by Wilson Forward several years ago that revealed many younger workers were commuting out of Wilson each day, and that a vibrant downtown, including housing options, were essential to keep this group in Wilson.
“We’re extremely pleased to have a large, residential housing option on the table in Wilson now,” said Goings. “Not only are we able to provide this choice in Whirligig Station, but we will instantly have the critical mass made possible by a large project.”
BB&T Corporate Office, Pine Street
Announced in 2018, the new office will centralize several current BB&T locations in Wilson and is expected to house 600 employees.
“We are appreciative of BB&T’s commitment to Wilson, especially downtown Wilson,” said Goings. “Regardless of where they were founded, not many companies of BB&T’s size choose a micropolitan location for a major facility. We think this is a testament to the faith BB&T has in Wilson’s ongoing growth and prosperity.”
Gig East Exchange, Goldsboro Street
The Gig East Exchange will be the epicenter of Gig East activities, encouraging innovation in technology, art and advancing entrepreneurship in Wilson. The Exchange will offer co-working and small office environments as well as robust programming. The Exchange will open once renovations on the building are completed, slated for spring 2020.
“Wilson has long been a leader in the agriculture and manufacturing economies,” Goings said. “We need to be a leader in the innovation economy as well. We are well on our way with more than a decade of Greenlight service, and we know need the physical space and ecosystem to match.”
The Exchange will offer accelerator programs to help start-up companies reach the critical first step of bringing a product to market. The City of Wilson is working with existing programs statewide to offer a unique value proposition to Smart City companies.
Goings said the City has the ability to provide vetted companies with access to the City’s day-to-day operations across city functions and utilities, helping companies test new ideas.
“Wilson is a one-stop shop with electric, natural gas, water, sewer and broadband services. The Exchange and its offerings will allow start-ups to focus on product development. It’s a niche we thing we can sell.”
Goings also mentioned the Cherry Hotel project currently in development. A developer is working on an $18 million investment to bring the building back to its former use as a downtown hotel. He also mentioned the Arts Council of Wilson redevelopment project on Nash Street.
While significant results are currently being seen now, the City has focused on downtown development for nearly a decade. Goings said a plan was enacted during the Great Recession to prepare for future development when the economy was back on track.
“We’ve learned you must have a viable downtown to attract new residents and a qualified work force. A few years ago it seemed downtown development was a debate in the community. I think we’ve all learned that a healthy downtown is simply not an option and we can all work together to strengthen downtown Wilson’s vibrancy.”
Goings said out-of-town developers frequently visit Wilson looking for new projects.
“It’s a vote of confidence we are on the right path,” he said.