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2028 comprehensive plan aims to prepare Wilmington for impacts of climate change

A future land use map in the Wilmington 2028 Comprehensive Plan

The recently approved Wilmington 2028 Comprehensive Plan combines 13 current neighborhood and city-wide plans into a single document, with new goals for Delaware’s most populous city.



The planwill guide development for the next decade, with goals including safe neighborhoods, healthy communities, a robust local economy, connectivity to the region and resilience to climate change.

“Environmental resilience is a very important issue these days,” said City planning director Herb Inden at a City Council meeting this fall. “We want to be able to pursue policies and procedures to help guard against climate change issues, like flooding.”

The plan says life in Wilmington may “change drastically” as a result of climate change impacts, including rising seas, warmer temperatures and more frequent extreme weather events. 

The plan recognizes that many areas of the city, including the Christina Riverfront, the train station and the Port of Wilmington, lie within Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-designated flood hazard areas. The plan calls the Brandywine and Christina Riverfronts “important opportunity areas” for future development, but recognizes they are vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. 

The plan directs flood management strategies to be included in changes to the City’s Waterfront Zoning Code, and says flood management systems could include expansion of dikes or levees, wetlands, parks or trails, depending on site conditions. It also calls for the protection of infrastructure such as water treatment facilities and evacuation routes through redundancy, elevation or building above base flood elevation, and increasing the absorptive capacity of surrounding land.  

City Council approved the plan earlier this month after delaying it in November over concerns about proposed changes to land use. The plan will require zoning changes in some places to match its future land use maps. Council will need to approve any such zoning changes within about a year and a half. 

One area marked for land use change is the east bank of the Christina River in South Wilmington. Currently a mix of industrial, commercial and vacant land, the area would move to “waterfront mixed use” under the plan. That land use category includes multi-family residential buildings with ground-floor retail, office buildings, civic centers and hotels, restaurants, commercial services, “nightlife” and performance venues, and recreation— resembling the already developed Christina Riverfront on the other side of the river. 

Inden told Council this fall that while all areas of the city are looking for change, South Wilmington— near the new 76ers Fieldhouse— is among the plan’s focus areas. “That’s an important area to us now, and we want to focus on developing strategies to help make something happen in that regard.”

Citizens were involved in the creation of the plan through focus groups, surveys, interviews and public forums. 

“We are grateful to the thousands of residents, business owners and other interested parties for contributing their ideas and suggestions for the comprehensive plan,” said Mayor Purzycki in a statement earlier this month. "This has been a popular, community-driven effort and we now have a plan that supports a vision for Wilmington that was designed jointly by government and the people it represents.”

The plan must be certified by the Governor. 


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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