Clarion Associates worked with Wilson, North Carolina, in 2008 to develop the city’s first comprehensive plan. Located east of Raleigh on the edge of the Research Triangle region, Wilson was once the world’s leading producer of golden leaf tobacco. The city has made great strides to adapt to the new economy but is challenged by disinvestment in the central city, the need to improve education and job skills of its citizens, declining inner-city neighborhoods, and aging commercial corridors with high vacancy rates. These challenges have resulted in a market draw to the northeast toward Raleigh and away from the historic core.
Building off a county-wide Wilson 20/20 Vision initiative, Clarion worked with the city to develop a new comprehensive plan that focuses on “One Wilson, Growing Together.” To ensure that the plan was developed with direction from a broad-base of stakeholders, a four-tiered public engagement system was developed including a Steering Committee,
a Plan Forum, the city’s Leadership Team, and opportunities for the general public to engage in the process. Public events included a Symposium of Ideas kickoff event, two community design charrettes, and presentations of new policies and implementation strategies at key points in the process.
A multitude of new initiatives, planning approaches, and community investments were identified for Wilson. Key outcomes of the planning process include a focus on using sustainable development principles to promote compact growth and focused reinvestment in downtown, coordination with the county to develop a tiered development fee system to focus growth to the center city, establishment of a neighborhood planning process, targeted capital improvements to declining areas, and sustainable performance standards for city operations. The plan was adopted in the spring of 2010.