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Wilmington's Riverside neighborhood chosen as "Purpose Built Community"

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
A mural at the Kingswood Community Center in Riverside

Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood could see a transformation of its housing stock—and education and community resources.

A non-profit consulting firm that works nationally to fight the cycle of poverty has designated Riverside its 19th Purpose Built Community.

That means the neighborhood could see 400 new units of mixed-income housing.  

An expansion of the Kingswood Community Center’s facility and Early Childhood education program are also planned, along with the addition of a high school to East Side Charter School.

Community development corporation REACH Riverside will lead the project.

Jeania Watson was a founding member of REACH. At Tuesday’s announcement, she thanked state and local officials for their work— but added real success will rely in community participation.

“Your hearts are in the right place, but at the end of the day, you guys go home and we’re still here. You don’t know what our needs are, you don’t know what our wants are. Only the residents can do that,” said Watson.

Sonia Paredes is a resident of Riverside who just joined the board of REACH.

“There was promising, promising, like four years ago. All I know is that it’s time for a change, especially for the kids, for the violence— and for us too,” said Paredes.

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki says the multi-partner initiative will bring an investment of more than $100 million into the neighborhood.

Wilmington Housing Authority Executive Director John Hill says the planned development of mix-income housing will likely mean fewer public housing units, and more project-based vouchers — with income-based rent.

“The communities that are thriving are mixed income communities.”

But he says residents who switch from public housing to project-based vouchers would end up paying the same rent.

“The requirements are exactly the same, the income calculations is exactly the same,” said Hill.

The Housing Authority will likely relocate existing public housing residents while their units are demolished and new projects are built. Hill says the moving costs as well as moving assistance will be covered by the Housing Authority.

“We may build on the existing seven or eight acres Phase 1 so people can stay in the community. And then tear down where they are, and then another family move into that when that’s done. And just do sort of they move back and forth but they remain in the community,” said Hill. “Some families that you move out don’t want to come back, it becomes their choice. We’ve seen that many, many times. ”


A previous version of this story stated that the partnerships would bring an overall investment of over $1 million to the neighborhood. Mayor Mike Purzycki said the total investment will exceed $100 million.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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