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Wilmington mayor announces plan to save historic mansion and gardens

Preservation Delaware
Preservation DE

Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announces the city's plan to save the Gibraltar mansion and Marian Coffin gardens.

Gibraltar is a historic site in Wilmington’s Highlands neighborhood. It houses the Marian Coffin gardens, named for the famous landscape architect who designed them.

Coffin was an early 20th century landscape architect who took part in the design of the University of Delaware’s campus, as well as other prominent Delaware landmarks.

Purzycki lives directly adjacent to the property in the city’s Highlands neighborhood, and says it’s a valuable community asset currently going to waste.

“For me to look at Gibraltar, in the wretched state that it’s been allowed to exist in in the last 25 years, is unforgivable to me,” said Purzycki.

His plan to save Gibraltar involves public-private ownership, as well as rezoning the property.

The current owners would turn the property over to the city, which would subdivide the property adjacent to the mansion to build 5 single-family homes.

The city will also contract with 9SDC to develop the site - with the garages located near the entrance of the garden being rezoned for commercial use, while the mansion remains residential.

Both of those points of the plan have made residents wary, though Purzycki notes this compromise with current owners will help improvements to the site get underway much faster, which is needed for the deteriorating mansion and gardens.

Puzycki also promises strong public management and oversight of the entire process.

“There's no chance that I would let anything be built over there that I didn’t personally take to a process of approval, not just me, but make sure that it works to the community, and that it kind of blends in with the community. So that would be number one,” he explained. “The other thing is, yeah, I think I would be very involved in what kind of uses are allowed in the garages.”

The city is partnering with local preservationists to assure that no major changes are made to the mansion or the gardens.

While discussions are ongoing, the plan states the historic gardens will be improved and maintained by agreement by the city, 9SDC and Preservation Delaware.

The gardens will remain free to the public.

Read Mayor Purzycki's letter to residents below:

Quinn Kirkpatrick was born and raised in Wilmington, Delaware and graduated of the University of Delaware. She joined Delaware Public Media in June 2021