About ROW

ROW is an all-volunteer, membership-based, non-profit neighborhood organization of people living in the Historic Districts covering the oldest parts of the City of Wilmington, North Carolina -- the area between Red Cross and Queen Streets, from the Cape Fear River to Eighth Street. 
ROW brings people together to build neighborliness and work together for historic preservation and improvement of the quality of life in the Historic Districts.

 ROW has been donating to worthwhile projects and causes since its founding in 1972.  These contributions have varied in size all the way up to $37,000 donated for landscaping on Market Street. Others include:
  • support of the Burgwin-Wright House
  • acquisition and renovation of  Tileston School by St. Mary Church
  • construction of the brick wall around the former Tileston School property
  • landscaping of Market Street  between Second and Third Streets
  • installation of the park next to the New Hanover County Main Library at Third and Chestnut
  • restoration of St. Thomas Preservation Hall
  • installation of a water-recirculating system in the Kenan Fountain at Fifth and Market
  • purchase of a new stage curtain in Thalian Hall.
  • planting of trees on Castle Street between South Third Street and South Eighth Street
  • purchase of lighting and trash bins for Wilkinson Alley
  • purchase of equipment for the  Wilmington Children’s Museum
  • provision of new chairs and projection screen in the Historic USO/Community Arts  Building
  • planting of trees in the ROW membership area on a yearly basis
  • planting of 50 live-oak trees along fifth Avenue as a special project
  • purchase and installation of planters in Bailey Park on North Front Street
  • purchase of Segways for the Wilmington Police Department
  • funding of 1898 Memorial Park
  • purchase of a statue entitled “Southern Hospitality” and installation at the corner of Market and Water Market Streets
  • installation of bicycle racks on Front Street
  • funded lighting of the American flag on the USS North Carolina battleship
  • funded information displays for Bellamy Mansion Slave Quarters
  • funded repairs of the Salvation Army Church on Third Street
  • funded a new display about "The Body" at The Children's Museum
  • funded the repair of the Bellamy Mansion roof after Hurricane Florence
Individual ROW members participate on a volunteer basis in the activities of many organizations devoted to historic preservation and the improvement of the quality of life in the historic districts.  The organizations that benefit from their time and efforts have included the Historic Wilmington Foundation, the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society and its Latimer House Museum , the Bellamy Mansion and the Azalea Festival.
ROW has been active in civic affairs and the formulation of public policies since its founding.  ROW's and individual ROW members' activities in these areas have included:
  • Successfully advocating at City Council, through education and input as stakeholders, for adoption of the “Historic District Residential” zoning classification and expansion of the local historic districts south to Castle Street
  • Successfully advocating at City Council, through education and input as stakeholders, for the retention of the Kenan Fountain at its historic location at the intersection of Fifth and Market.
  • Participating in the founding of DARE (Downtown Area Revitalization Effort,” later renamed WDI (Wilmington Downtown Inc.).  ROW now participates in the organization by representation on the Board of Directors.
  • Writing and sponsoring at City Council the amendment to the Zoning Ordinance that created the “Meeting and Events Center” zoning classification
  • Commenting during development  of the revised “Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks.”  Supporting before the Planning Commission and City Council the adoption of the revised “Guidelines” and the change  from “Historic District Commission” to “Historic Preservation Commission.”
  • Participating in the development of the first “Vision 2020 Plan” for Wilmington through representation on the Citizen’s Advisory  Panel.  ROW endorsed the plan upon its completion.
  • Co-sponsoring and co-chairing the Advisory Committee for the revision of the City’s Noise Ordinance.  Officially endorsing the Committee’s recommendations
  • Conducting Candidates’ Forums in connection with local elections.
  • Promoting and supporting the creation of a pedestrian island and warning light at the intersection of Ann Street and South Third Street.
  • Participating on the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee (DPAC) through representation.
  • Made recommendations for the city's Brick Street policy.
  • Represented Historic District home owners in the city's development of a Short Term Rental policy.
In addition to these organizational activities, individual ROW members have served in public roles.  The appointed offices they have held include membership or service as Chair or Vice Chair on Boards and Commission such as the Historic Preservation Commission,  the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, and the Sister Cities Commission.  Members have held elected offices including State Representative, Mayor of the City of Wilmington, and Wilmington City Councilor.
ROW gives two awards yearly in recognition of the contributions of individuals to the quality of life in the Historic Districts.
  • The “Good Neighbor Award” is presented yearly to one or more individuals who exemplify by their actions the spirit of neighborliness. The award is presented during the annual Historic Preservation Week ceremony of the Historic Wilmington Foundation.
  • The “Dolly Pearson Beautiful Garden Award” is presented annually to the individual in the ROW membership area whose landscaping contributes to the beauty of the neighborhood.
ROW hosts a number of social events at which members can get to know each other and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Annual picnic in late Spring.  Members, Friends and their guests bring food to share.  The picnic is usually held in the yard of one of the members.
  • Annual Membership Party in September. Members renew their membership and new members are invited to join.
  • Annual Holiday Party in December.  Members, Friends and their guests bring food to share, and celebrate the festivity of the season.
  • Annual Law enforcement Appreciation Dinner to express gratitude to the men and women of the Wilmington Police Department and New Hanover County Sheriff’s Department.
  • Annual Firefighter’s Appreciation Luncheon.  These brave public servants do so much to maintain the quality of life in Wilmington.
The neighborhoods in ROW’s membership area (8th Street to the Cape Fear River and Red Cross Street to Queen Street, hereinafter the ROW “Neighborhoods”) provide much of the historic character and charm that define the City of Wilmington, North Carolina. They contain historically and architecturally important residences. They are living neighborhoods, but they are also authentic, beautiful, cultural districts that serve to educate residents and visitors alike. ROW’s Neighborhoods are an indisputable asset to the local economy, particularly tourism and the film industry. The membership of ROW seeks to maintain both the historical and residential character of the Neighborhoods. They should be safe, livable communities for all ages – young professionals, families with children, active retirees, and the elderly. Particular areas of ongoing concern to the membership are public safety, beautification, and the impacts of new development. ROW’s vision for its Neighborhoods is compatible with and supports the City’s Vision 2020 Plans for downtown (1997, 2004)*, which include proposals for implementation of many of the recommendations that follow.
A. Existing buildings.
In keeping with the historic character of ROW’s Neighborhoods, all buildings, whether owner-occupied or rental, should be properly restored and maintained. Buildings that were originally built as single-family residences should be maintained that way, or returned to single-family use.  Continued preservation through rehabilitation and restoration of historic homes in the neighborhoods is essential and should be done pursuant to the Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks (hereinafter the “Guidelines”).*
B. Infill and Other New Development
Existing homes should be preserved and not torn down for new development. Any infill development on unimproved lots should: 1) comply with all Guidelines*, and zoning codes, ordinances and regulations*; and 2) be done in a manner consistent with the predominately single-family character of the Neighborhoods. Any new development or redevelopment must fit into the context of the historic Neighborhoods and should not crowd, overwhelm or detract from existing buildings. Consistent with the character of the Neighborhoods and to any extent possible, developers and redevelopers should include off-street parking in their plans.  
C. Aesthetics
Buildings, yards, unimproved lots, streetscapes and sidewalks within the Neighborhoods should be well maintained, and beautification should be encouraged.  Ordinances and regulations* relating to upkeep of property should be strictly and consistently enforced by the City of Wilmington. Streetscapes should be improved with attractive landscaping, especially plazas (between sidewalk and street), medians and at street corners. Landscaping should be well maintained. In particular, the medians on South Third Street and on North and South Fifth Avenue should be upgraded with attractive, well maintained landscaping.  Overhead lines for power and communications should be consolidated or buried whenever possible.
D. Streets
Generally, streets and sidewalks in the ROW Neighborhoods should be safe, well lighted, in good repair, attractive, and regulated in a manner consistent with the residential, pedestrian friendly character of the Neighborhoods.
Specifically, streets and alleys paved with brick and other historic paving materials (collectively “brick streets”), as well as curbs made of granite and other historic curbing materials, should be maintained and preserved.  Brick streets covered with asphalt, or patched with asphalt or cement, should be restored to brick.
Traffic patterns, traffic volumes and speed limits should be compatible with the residential character of the Neighborhoods. Traffic calming devices, including historic paving materials, should be used to discourage speeding and excess traffic in the Neighborhoods. Effective pedestrian crosswalk signals and signs should be installed at strategic locations at the busier intersections.
Future development in and around downtown should be planned and executed in ways that do not route traffic through the Neighborhoods. State Highway NC Business 17 should be re-routed out of downtown. South Third Street and South Fifth Avenue should be restored to two lanes.  No route for the proposed new bridge across the Cape Fear River should be selected that will route traffic through, create excess traffic in, or otherwise adversely effect the downtown historic districts, including the ROW Neighborhoods.  
The City should encourage visitors and local business employees to use municipal parking meters, decks and lots, rather than parking in the Neighborhoods. The City’s residential parking permit program* should be expanded when requested by residents. The City should maintain the alleys within ROW’s Neighborhoods and undertake a study of the feasibility of reopening alleys that are blocked or disused, to provide additional off-street parking.
E. Residential Zoning Restrictions on Uses.
Zoning regulations* prohibiting business uses in residential districts should be vigorously and consistently enforced. Regulations governing rentals in residential districts should be consistent with and support the residential character and zoning of the Neighborhoods and should be clear, enforceable and enforced.  All rentals should be primarily residential in nature. Guest lodging, for instance B&Bs, should be limited in number and should be the “principal residence” of an on-site owner or manager so as to be primarily residential in use.  There should be strict and consistent enforcement of regulations governing: the number of unrelated individuals permitted to reside in a single residence; the number of residential units permitted on a single lot; residential lot size, street frontage and density; and off street parking requirements for new and redeveloped properties.
F. Parks and Playgrounds.
The ROW membership strongly supports the addition and expansion of parks and playgrounds in the Neighborhoods, consistent with previous statements. Parks and playgrounds should be well-lighted and open to promote safety. Regulations against vagrancy, loitering, panhandling, littering, and noise must be strictly and consistently enforced in and around parks and playgrounds. Existing parks should be improved, upgraded and made more attractive.
G. The Central Business District.
ROW supports and encourages more full-time residents living in the CBD in (1) preserved and redeveloped existing commercial buildings, and (2) new infill buildings appropriate in location, scale and character so as to fit sensitively into the historic CBD. ROW also supports and encourages a diverse business community downtown, including addition of a full service grocery store, and more quality retail shops, professional offices, banks, service businesses, hotels, galleries, museums, theaters, etc.  ROW supports continued monitoring and regulation of bars and nightclubs, with a goal of diminishing the density of these establishments over time. The City’s noise ordinance* must be strictly and consistently enforced.
ROW’s membership area is from 8th Street to the Cape Fear River and from Red Cross to Queen Streets. This entire area is covered by the National Register of Historic Places, and includes residential neighborhoods, mixed use neighborhoods, two primarily non-residential historic districts around Thalian Hall and the City and County offices and courts (HD and HD-MU), and the Central Business District (CBD).  Most of residential areas within ROW District are designated Historic District-Residential (HD-R) and are subject to the Wilmington Design Guidelines for Historic Districts and Landmarks and architectural review by the Historic Preservation Commission. The following  documents, which may be found on the City of Wilmington website www.wilmingtonnc.gov, are useful references for understanding ROW’s Vision Statement:
Vision 2020 Plan
Historic Districts, Map, Design Guidelines
Land Use Development Code
Residential Parking Permit Program
Noise Ordinance
Adopted by the ROW Board, January 25, 2017, and by the Members, February 8, 2017.