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New park opens in Wilmington's West Center City

The new “community green space” at 7th and West Streets arose from nine remediated vacant lots. The park features a membership-based community garden with eleven raised beds and a space for concerts and other programming.

The project was led by the Wilmington Alliance— a group created by last summer’s merger of the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation and the Wilmington Leaders Alliance.

Wilmington Alliance CEO Renata Kowalczyk says the park is a place for the community to “be with one another.”

“Imagine a place that was completely closed off and stuff for decades— because it was actually a toxic site— and now it becomes an open green space for community to gather,” she said. 

Kowalczyk says the community garden in the park was requested by nearby residents, who noted there is only one other garden in the area. She said eight people have already signed up to start gardening at the new park in the spring.

Caren Turner has lived in West Center City all her life. She works a block away from the new park at Interfaith Community Housing, and was involved with the park’s development.

“As a child, I remember what was in this area— I remember the houses, I remember when they started tearing down the houses, and they buried the oil tanks,” she said. “This is just absolutely wonderful.”

The new park — along with a nearby community space known as the Rock Lot— are part of Wilmington Alliance’s Creative District Wilmington initiative, and will host free programming. The Rock Lot and the new park are connected by a mural-lined alley. 

At the new park’s groundbreaking last year, Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki said he sees these kinds of small revitalization projects as part of how to “turn a city around.”

The project cost close to $900,000, and was funded in part through DNREC’s brownfield program and a state Neighborhood Building Blocks grant. Construction and remediation of the site began this spring.

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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