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Plan to balance development, flooding on the 7th Street Peninsula nears completion

The Wilmington Area Planning Council’s study of the East 7th Street Peninsula in Wilmington is seeking its final public comment.

 

The historically industrial peninsula is now home to several businesses, the Kalmar Nyckel, a skate park, a solar panel field, and the coming Light Action Productions— as well as several undeveloped parcels. It’s been identified in the City of Wilmington’s draft comprehensive plan as a focus for economic development.

But the peninsula, which is bordered by the Brandywine and the Christina rivers, experiences chronic tidal flooding that about once a year stops some employees from getting to work. The flooding is expected to worsen with sea level rise, which could submerge up to a quarter of the peninsula by 2040, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projections.

“Some of these shorelines, we’re not going to want to build a lot,” said Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO) planner Dave Gula. “We’re going to want to let them return to what they’re supposed to do. Which is be a storm buffer.”

Jim Thomas owns roughly 15 acres on the peninsula, including 2,300 feet of shoreline and a plot he recently razed and is looking to sell to a developer. But he says for development to thrive, the flooding must be addressed.

“When you get rain, a full moon and a high tide, that’s usually when we get our worst flooding,” he said. “But when the tide goes out, the water goes out. But if you’re going to have a long term investment down here, everything’s gotta be brought up higher than it is right now. So at least we have people working on a long term plan.”

WILMAPCO’s plan recommends raising the peninsula’s roads, improving its sewer tide gates, preserving opens space as a tidal buffer and building a lit public river walkway. It also recommends improvements to Church St., 4th St. and Swedes Landing Road, as well as an armored shoreline for part of the peninsula's north shore.

Planner Dave Gula says his team will accept public comment until mid-June on which recommendations to prioritize and then finalize the plan. He says the project has already obtained some road improvement funding from DelDOT, but many of the recommendations do not have funding identified yet.

The City of Wilmington’s draft 2028 Comprehensive Plan recommends positioning and promoting the 7th Street Peninsula for neighborhood economic development. It also proposes changes to the city’s waterfront zoning districts — which include much of the 7th Street Peninsula — to better address climate change and flooding.

The Peninsula is also in the Wilmington Federal Opportunity Zone.

 

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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