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JPMorgan Chase announces $4 million investment into Wilmington neighborhoods

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Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
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JPMorgan Chase announced it is investing $4 million to support economic development in Wilmington neighborhoods.

 

The new Equitable Wilmington partnership is one of seven winners nationwide of JPMorgan Chase’s Partnerships for Raising Opportunity in Neighborhoods (PRO Neighborhoods) competition this year.  

The bank is granting the three community development financial institutions in the partnership $4 million to loan to projects and businesses in Wilmington’s East, West and Northeast neighborhoods.

JPMorgan Chase Market Director for Delaware Tom Horne said at a press event Wednesday that the money will be aimed at affordable housing development, small businesses and community facilities, as well as addressing social determinants of health through partnerships with the healthcare sector. 

Members of the partnership, which include Cinnaire Lending Corporation, True Access Capital and NCALL Loan Fund, say it seeks to bring the economic growth happening in the city’s Central Business District into neighborhoods.

“We’ve seen a lot of investments made along Market St. and the Riverfront that is invigorating local small businesses and bringing vitality to our downtown area,” said Dionna Sargent, community development market leader at Cinnaire. "With this grant we plan to bring that same energy and investment to our Wilmington neighborhoods."

Sargent says they will use the grant mainly for loans to support activities such as “redevelopment of vacant and blighted homes, small business development and entrepreneurial support, [and the] development of community facilities that create resources and bring assets to the community."

One project getting technical assistance through the PRO Neighborhoods investment is the mixed-use Solomon’s Court apartments and commercial space being developed on Fourth and Rodney Streets.  

Lottie Lee-Davis is executive director of Be Ready, the community development corporation behind the project, which will be built on a former Wilmington Housing Partnership property. She says the new development will be affordable and accessible.

“We had seven vacant buildings that were empty, they were blighted, one was burned out. And the children walk by it and they see it and they think that’s the only thing that they can have in their community. But no, they can have nice buildings, they can have nice housing,” she said. “And that’s such another mindset.”

Lee-Davis says her organization had a sale contract with the Wilmington Housing Partnership for the land since 2016, but purchased it for more than $400,000 just this year. The City of Wilmington took control of the public-private Wilmington Housing Partnership (WHP) this year after a City audit revealed misuse of financial assistance from the City, hundreds of thousands of dollars in accounting records errors and a “weakened financial condition.”

Lee-Davis hopes to break ground on phase 1 of the project, which will include six housing units along with 1,600 square feet of commercial space, in the next few months. Her organization is currently looking for funding for phase two, which will consist of 14 housing units and additional commercial space. 

JPMorgan Chase officials say the three-year, $4 million investment is one of its largest in Wilmington to date.