The Riverside Neighborhood named as the 19th Purpose Built Community in the United States

The goal of this community-based effort is neighborhood revitalization in order to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty by creating pathways out of poverty

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki today joined with Governor John Carney, County Executive Matthew Meyer, City Council Member Zanthia Oliver, the REACH Riverside Development Corporation (RRDC or REACH Riverside) and the Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) for a major community redevelopment announcement. Expanding on the City’s commitment to partner with local neighbors and community leaders to revitalize Wilmington’s disadvantaged areas, the Mayor said he hopes today’s announcement will bring renewed hope and opportunity to citizens who are living and working in and around the Riverside neighborhood in northeast Wilmington.

Nationally renowned Purpose Built Communities, a non-profit consulting firm that works side-by-side with community leaders, residents and others to plan and implement holistic community revitalization efforts, announced today that it has designated Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood as the 19th Purpose Built Community in the United States.

Under the Purpose Built model, REACH Riverside will work in partnership with community members and other partners to develop and implement strategies for a cradle-to-college or career education pipeline, mixed-income housing, and a community health and wellness initiative. The goals for Riverside include the development of 400 new units of high-quality, mixed-income housing, the enhancement and expansion of Kingswood Community Center’s Early Childhood education program, the addition of a high school to the East Side Charter School’s current pre-K through grade 8, and the expansion of the Kingswood Community Center facility to greatly increase access by Riverside residents to health and wellness services. Working in close collaboration with REACH Riverside is The Teen Warehouse, a partnership of more than 50 teen-serving organizations that will provide school-day and after-school health and wellness programs and services to Wilmington youths between the ages of 13 and 19.

“Today’s wonderful news follows years of research, planning and development by the City, WHA, community leaders and Riverside residents, all of whom recognize that it is time to invest in an inclusive, holistic manner to make Riverside a neighborhood of opportunity for all of its current and future residents.” said Mayor Purzycki. “We are very excited about the prospects for the future of this neighborhood and this area of the City.”

“The State of Delaware is proud to be partnering with Mayor Purzycki, other local officials, and community leaders to strengthen communities across the City of Wilmington, and ensure that resources are reaching economically-distressed communities that need those resources the most,” said Governor John Carney. “We want to make sure that everyone in Wilmington and across our state has an opportunity to succeed, and contribute to Delaware’s success. Investing in our communities will help us achieve that goal. I want to thank Mayor Purzycki and all of the community leaders involved for their leadership on this important initiative.”

In thanking those who were instrumental in making the Purpose Built Community dream become a reality, Charles McDowell, Chairman of the REACH Riverside Board of Directors, reflected on the project’s history up to this point. “Five years ago, we visited the country’s first Purpose Built Community in Atlanta and made a commitment on the spot to bring that level of progress to Wilmington,” said McDowell. “We thank the Purpose Built organization for recognizing the hard work and commitment that has brought us together today, and the willingness and eagerness of countless partners and friends to walk beside us on this journey.”

Purpose Built services, which are provided at no cost, are tailored to each community’s needs and the dynamics of the neighborhood they are working to revitalize. With a goal of breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty, Purpose Built uses best practices to guide neighborhood revitalization by creating pathways out of poverty for the lowest-income residents, and building strong, economically diverse communities.

Mayor Purzycki praised the unique, multi-party public private partnership that is working together to implement the Purpose Built Communities model in Riverside. He said that although there will be numerous organizations, groups and individuals involved in completing the estimated ten-year Purpose Built process, four lead entities have entered into a formal agreement to represent what are referred to as the “four pillars” of the Purpose Built model—housing, education, community wellness and leadership by a community “quarterback.” The entities are:

  • The REACH Riverside Renaissance Development Corporation, branded as REACH Riverside (Redevelopment, Education And Community Health), which will take the lead on the project, serving as the “Community Quarterback.” Comprised of community leaders who have the skills, connections and reputation to attract the necessary community partners and funding, their sole job is to work with the community and partners to manage the overall process to ensure that all parties are pursuing common goals. Logan Herring, who currently serves as Executive Director of the Kingswood Community Center, will transition from his role at Kingswood to become the CEO of the REACH Riverside project.
  • The Wilmington Housing Authority, which owns the existing Riverside public housing project, will work in partnership with Pennrose, LLC, a nationally recognized development company that specializes in mixed-income, affordable housing, to develop the high-quality mixed income housing in the Riverside neighborhood.
  • Kingswood Community Center will play a central role as landowner for a portion of the new housing and the home of other project components, including early learning, senior services, and health and wellness services and other amenities needed to support a robust neighborhood.
  • East Side Charter School, which borders the north end of Riverside, will be the foundation of the education pillar and will lead the establishment of a “cradle to college and career education pipeline” to serve the neighborhood children.

John Hill, Executive Director of the Wilmington Housing Authority, said the WHA is proud to be a partner in this effort. “The Riverside revitalization initiative provides the opportunity to reinvent this neighborhood with services that include mixed-income housing, livable space, high-quality education and health services,” said Hill. “What we achieve here can serve as a model for other distressed neighborhoods in our city.”

The Purpose Built Communities model, which emerged out of a neighborhood revitalization initiative in the late 1990’s in Atlanta, Georgia, has demonstrated the importance of private sector leadership in breaking the cycle of poverty in neighborhoods that have long suffered with low levels of educational achievement, high unemployment, crime and blight. Purpose Built is currently working to achieve these goals with a total of 20 network member communities throughout the United States.

“We have been impressed with the effort underway in Wilmington ever since the Mayor, Charlie and their team first came to Atlanta,” said Purpose Built Communities President Carol Naughton. “Their commitment to understanding what works best for Riverside, its families, and its children, their willingness to partner with the community, and their ability to provide leadership to bring the necessary partners and resources to the table will make a great difference for the neighborhood and its residents.”

Governor Carney: It’s time, Wilmington!

Op-ed by Governor John Carney

What makes a city great?

Cities are centers of commerce, arts, sports and places where we can live together. Great cities have good schools and safe and strong neighborhoods where every child has an opportunity to be successful.

But great cities are more than the sum of these parts. A city becomes great when its residents feel a collective sense of pride, satisfaction and gratitude for what they have built together.

That’s why I joined Mayor Mike Purzycki and the neighborhood and community leaders of Wilmington on September 28th for the launch of the mayor’s It’s Time initiative.

Wilmington is the hidden jewel of the Mid-Atlantic. We might not get the attention of our larger neighbors north and south along the Amtrak corridor, but that shouldn’t stop us from celebrating what we know makes Wilmington such a special place.

It’s about time.

It’s time to recognize that Wilmington is home to at least 50 financial, chemical, pharmaceutical and technology-based companies. They employ thousands of people, many of whom moved here to advance their careers.

It’s time to recognize our strong neighborhoods and the tight-knit communities they support – from Southbridge to Hilltop to Forty Acres to the East Side to Triangle, where I live.

It’s time to spread the word that Wilmington has an entrepreneurial culture, great for young people who may not want to work for a large company but are starting businesses that sell services and products to those larger companies based here. From start-ups at The Mill to companies that have grown like Chemours and Incyte, Wilmington has the jobs of the new economy.

No one wants a job in a place where the salaries don’t keep up with the cost of living, or where the arts, recreational and eating and drinking scene is not vibrant. The best kept secret about Wilmington is that its salaries would be competitive even in our high-cost neighboring cities, but a dollar in Wilmington goes so much further.

It’s time we stop keeping it a secret.

Compared to Wilmington, housing costs 131 percent more in Washington, DC; 34 percent more in Baltimore; and 18 percent more in Philadelphia. Someone earning $70,000 a year in Wilmington could afford the same lifestyle of someone in Washington earning over $101,000.

It’s time to celebrate Wilmington’s rich and diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. We have Latino immigrants, third and fourth generation Italian and Irish and Polish families, and a strong African American community.

If you walk down Market Street today, or along the Riverfront, you’ll see a bustling city. You see senior citizens taking their grandkids to the Delaware History Museum. You see millennials enjoying happy hour at Merchant Bar or Farmer and the Cow or Chelsea Tavern. You see people of all ages at the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, and cyclists from across the country at the Wilmington Grand Prix.

You see kids playing in our neighborhood parks – from Eden Park to Haynes Park to Judy Johnson Park to Prices Run to Canby Park. You see corporate lawyers and bankers at lunch at Tonic or eating from food trucks in Rodney Square.

You see cyclists along the Markell Trail and runners along the Brandywine. You see families at the Hispanic Festival and Blue Rocks games and August Quarterly. You see students at the Delaware College of Art and Design and new residents at Market Street Village.

By the end of the year, you’ll see professional basketball games and recreational lacrosse at the 76ers Fieldhouse. Whether you’re new to the city or have lived here all your life, there’s no denying that Wilmington is alive, and that it’s our time – our moment.

Our success is the result of neighborhood and community leaders, business representatives, and elected officials working together to ensure that every Wilmingtonian has the opportunity to succeed in the new economy.

We have been making investments to improve quality of life for a diverse citizenry. We’ve sought assistance for homeless veterans in the city, supported new downtown residential and business development, pushed for the revival of the Queen, worked to restore Rodney Square, and helped attract the new UDairy Creamery and Stitch House Brewery.

I am a proud Wilmington resident who is standing with my neighbors throughout the city to recognize that what we have in Wilmington is what other towns are trying to become. No city will ever be perfect, but the worst thing we can do is not believe we are as good as we are.

It’s time, Wilmington.

DART Highlights Passenger Facility Improvements in Wilmington

Delaware Transit Corporation (DTC), operating DART First State, is continuing to invest in passenger facilities in Wilmington and will be replacing and installing new shelters on King Street beginning this week and continuing over the next month. The new shelters will be located at King and 3rd, King and 6th, King and 8th, King and 9th, and King and 10th. In addition, shelters will be installed on South Market at South Shipley, the old B&O railroad building, and North French at 9th Street. These improvements total almost $116,000, and DTC also has another $300,000 in city bus stop improvements planned for this fiscal year.

“Following recent bus route changes in downtown Wilmington, we heard and listened to concerns about the need for additional benches and shelters for our riders, and that’s the reason we are making these important investments,” said Governor John Carney. “We believe that affordable public transit and transportation infrastructure improvements are key to investing in our city and Wilmington’s downtown area. Over the next several years, we will invest $250 million in transportation improvements in and around the city, including in new transit improvements, the new Christina River bridge, and the transit center adjacent to the Biden train station. These are important investments that will strengthen our city, help create jobs, and improve transit in and around Wilmington.”

Secretary of Transportation Jennifer Cohan added, “Providing cover from the elements will improve comfort and convenience for all of our riders along these routes and are another example of the improvements we continue to make in Wilmington.”

“We are committed to providing safe, efficient, and reliable transit services in Wilmington and across Delaware,” said Delaware Transit Corporation CEO John Sisson. “We understand that the strength and vitality of Wilmington is key to the health and success of the state, and these improvements are a result of the feedback we’ve received from our riders in the city.”

Over the past eight months, DTC has invested $120,000 in passenger facility improvements within the city, including the installation of new bus shelters along French, 9th, 10th, and Washington Streets; a second shelter at the Wilmington Amtrak Station bus stop and at the heavily used stop on King Street at 3rd Street.

In addition, DTC has secured a $2.45 million federal grant for improvements along Orange Street, including the plan to convert the current one-way, northbound street into a two-way street by adding a southbound bus lane from 10th to 4th Streets. This project, brought forth to the community through Wilmington Initiatives, comprised of DTC, DelDOT, City of Wilmington and the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO), is currently being finalized and is a key piece of the infrastructure improvements that will support an optimal transit system, including ADA-compliant bus stops and pedestrian access with new bus shelters and amenities.

This fall, ground will be broken on the new Wilmington Transit Center near the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Train Station. The transit center, set to open next year, will feature customer amenities including an indoor, seated waiting area, access to restrooms, USB charging stations, Wi-Fi, and vending machines.

Former Housing Site Becomes the WHA’s Southbridge Solar Park

New 1.15 megawatt solar farm will save WHA $1.2 million and provide clean, renewable energy to housing authority residents

WILMINGTON, Del. – The Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA), joined by Mayor Mike Purzycki, Governor John Carney and other local and state officials, today officially dedicated its new Southbridge Solar Park at 900 South Claymont Street. The 1.15 megawatt solar installation will save the housing authority money and provide clean, renewable solar-generated electricity to WHA residents. The solar array – developed, financed and constructed by New York-based Ecogy Energy— is currently the largest, privately-financed, public housing solar project in the United States.

Located at the site of the former 180-unit WHA Southbridge Extension, the solar farm is estimated to produce 40 million kilowatt hours of electricity over the lifetime of the project. The clean energy produced by this solar project is equivalent to the polluting CO2 emissions from more than 69,000 barrels of oil or nearly 33,000,000 pounds of coal burned. In addition to managing the construction of the solar park, Ecogy Energy will monitor and maintain the facility.

“We’re honored to have been able to authorize this important energy-saving program,” said Karen Spellman, Interim Executive Director of the Wilmington Housing Authority. “Working with Ecogy and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we have been able to turn an unused lot into a radiant ‘sun-garden’ that will save the housing authority $1.2 million over the life of the energy contract. In turn, we can focus those savings on the needed maintenance of our existing housing stock.”

The savings to the WHA will come from virtual net energy metering, through which the WHA will receive credit for any additional energy being produced to supply multiple WHA-owned properties. The WHA houses ten percent of Wilmington’s population (or approximately 7,000 residents) in 4,000 multiple and single housing units via the Low-Income Public Housing (LIPH) and Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) programs throughout the city.

“We’re happy to help celebrate this innovative project, which will create jobs, build on our efforts to promote sustainability, and reduce emissions,” said Governor John Carney. “Thank you to the Wilmington Housing Authority and Ecogy Energy for their leadership in partnering on this important work.”




“I applaud WHA and Ecogy Energy for their commitment to this innovative project,” said Mayor Purzycki. “This project has leveraged private capital to create local jobs, contribute to state and local sustainability efforts, and assist the largest direct provider of affordable housing in Delaware in saving money on energy costs.”

WHA and Ecogy Energy solar park panels“As a company, we are invested in helping bridge the gap of inequality that exists in owning and using solar energy,” said Ken Becker, Partner at Ecogy Energy. “The Wilmington Housing Authority has stepped into a national leadership position with this project, and will be using the economic benefits of the project to improve housing for our lowest income population.”

The Southbridge Solar Park project is currently a contender for the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Prize as part of the Solar in Your Community Challenge, a $5 million contest that supports innovative and replicable community-based solar business models and programs that will bring solar to underserved communities. The final prize announcement will be made in January 2019.

Also participating in today’s event were State Senator Harris McDowell, City Council President Hanifa Shabazz, 4th District City Council Representative Michelle Harlee, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer, Chairman of WHA Board of Commissioners Steve Martin, Maria L. Bynum of the HUD Wilmington Field Office, and Marie Reed of the Southbridge Civic Association.



INspire Talks: Why Wilmington?

with a Panel Discussion moderated by Governor Carney

Watch as 5 speakers, one musical performance, and a live art experience all answer the question “Why Wilmington?”