Open-air arts exchange planned for Wilmington's East Side
Remnants of old horse stables formerly used by Wilmington and New Castle County police will be converted into artist stalls in coming years.
It’s part of a two-phase, multi-year project the city of Wilmington and the nonprofit Urban Bike Project are teaming up on.
Urban Bike Project currently occupies the old police building and grounds. They run a free bike program, providing refurbished bikes to adults and youth in Wilmington in need of transportation. Laura Wilburn is the group’s Executive Director.
“For these kids, their bikes are a creative expression and it is – in a sense – a functional art," Wilburn said. "And I think that’s not just limited to kids, I think that’s adults as well.”
They’ve operated their bike shop out of the East Side building since 2013. But before 2020, it’s slated to receive some major – and artistic – upgrades.
The site's stables and the property’s grounds will be converted into an open-air space called the Urban Artist Exchange for artists and art lovers.
Tina Betz is Wilmington’s Acting Cultural Affairs Director. She says the project is part of a continuing effort to revitalize and renew Wilmington’s East Side that actually started several years ago.
“Now, six years ago was a little bit premature," Betz said. "And I’m going to say that it was fortunately that we did not move forward with this project six years ago. Because had we done that – we would not have had the opportunity to become partners with the Urban Bike Project.”
The first phase of the project – including renovation of the stables and surrounding grounds – is expected to start next September.
Phase two is slated to include an open-seat amphitheater, an outdoor public art exhibition and sculpture garden. Both phases combined are estimated to cost $975,000 - but not all funding has been secured yet.
The main building will get some upgrades, too. Wilburn says the 1920s era structure is eligible for state historic tax credits since it’s in a national registry district. Those upgrades - including renovating the building's second floor and updating the floorplan - are estimated to cost between $250,000 and $450,000.