New Castle County wins bid for hotel, looks to iron out operational details
New Castle County government has won the auction for a hotel along I-95. The County plans to turn it into a homeless shelter.
The County won the auction for the Sheraton Wilmington South with a bid of $19.5 million, county officials announced Wednesday. It’ll be paid for out of the County’s federal coronavirus relief funds.
County Council authorized the bid for the 192-room hotel Tuesday with a unanimous vote. The next step for the County is to close on the property in the coming weeks.
County community services staff proposed buying the hotel to house those experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hurt many financially and reduced homeless shelter capacity.
Former Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Langraf said Wednesday the additional shelter space will benefit public health.
“In order to do prevention, we need this level of resource,” she said.
County community services staff envision a slate of social services available to residents in the hotel’s common spaces.
County Community Development and Housing Manager Carrie Casey hopes that after the pandemic, the hotel will go on to help fill a need for transitional housing in the county.
“This is going to be a place where people come, and we work through on-site case management to help folks get to their permanent destination,” Casey said.
Some residents raised concerns at Tuesday's County Council meeting about whether county taxpayers will be on the hook for long-term operational costs of the hotel.
County Executive Matt Meyer said Wednesday operational details have yet to be ironed out.
Casey says her team is working to put together an operational plan for the hotel, which will include basic management of the hotel as well as social services.
Casey and Councilman Penrose Hollins say the county expects to help fund operations and services at the hotel through partner organizations and future federal funding.
The County must spend its general federal coronavirus relief funds by the end of the year. But County officials say several million dollars in coronavirus relief funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can be spent for the next 6 years.
“We’re not intending to take any dramatic steps to push money out the door just to meet that Dec. 30 deadline [to spend CARES Act funds],” said Meyer. “The one caveat is that may change as we get closer to Dec. 30 if there is no extension.”
“But this is something that's needed urgently by the community, and that’s what’s driving the urgency more than any funding stipulations or legal requirements,” Meyer added.
The County plans to start operating the hotel as a shelter in December.