East Side housing project on the rise
Describing a neighborhood on the brink of revitalization, city and state lawmakers broke ground on the latest housing project aiming to transform Wilmington’s East Side.
Wilmington Housing Partnership (WHP) will build seven homes on this lot in the 800 block of Bennett Street, with future construction planned to radiate down several blocks.
$1.1 million in public money from the state’s Downtown Development District initiative and one-time legal settlement money, as well as private cash from J.P. Morgan Chase is helping bankroll the development.
Two homes have been completed and sold, with 50 expected in total over the next three years.
The larger homes will boast three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms and garages, as well as modern appliances and will be priced between $100,000 and $140,000, according to Robert Buccini, a prominent city developer and board chair for WHP.
The tone of the event was celebratory, punctuated with applause from neighborhood residents watching from the lot and the front steps of nearby houses.
But some who spoke urged against complacency and the thought that a single block of new construction will suffocate problems brought on by drugs and crushing poverty in the area.
“We have to build continuously because nobody’s going to move into neighborhoods as long as you continue to see plight in the next block over or the next block over,” said Rep. Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington East). “So it’s imperative that we look at this at this particular time to make changes and our concepts come towards the neighborhood in terms of rebuilding it.”
Mayor Dennis Williams (D) agreed, noting that he’s committed to continue investments in a project that he says will sow positive seeds of change that will grow outward, block-by-block.
“When they see stability in their neighborhood like houses being renovated and new home ownership, they know it’ll reduce crime. They know it’s going to bring the neighborhood back,” Williams said. “They know we’re not just going to invest in piecemeal, a little bit of money, and not come back and do some other things.”
Others also added that neighborhood residents would be trained and hired to construct and finish the new homes, giving them a stable paycheck and skills for future work.
Workers will be state certified and given apprenticeships through residential and light construction union Local 55.
“As a result of these commitments, the opportunity for change in the lives of people and for this community is becoming real,” said Rev. Terrence Keeling, a main backer of the project. “Real change is taking place for people in this community.”
Behind the Bennett Street development, WHP will also carve out open space to create a community garden expected to be ready next October.
“We are bringing back the word ‘neighbor’ in the word ‘neighborhood’. Eastside is no longer a hood, it is a neighborhood and as you look around you will see it growing,” Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz (D-District 4) said.