State and city officials unveiled a multi-million-dollar plan to renovate Rodney Square in Wilmington Thursday.
The $6-8 million renovations will include new paving, lighting, fountains and plantings, according to city officials.
Marty Hageman of Downtown Visions and the Rodney Square Conservancy called the renovations a “complete makeover” of the square, which has been at the center of a controversy over the removal of some bus stops there in 2017.
At a public hearing hosted by DART this week, several bus riders and advocates complained of continued confusion over bus routes in the wake of the changes, less accessible bus connections for people with disabilities and a lack of transparency surrounding decision making.
But Hageman says he does not see this renovation and the bus route changes as connected. “The Conservancy has always viewed these as two separate issues. One is an issue with DART and the population that would be using the bus. The other is just for those neighbors that just did not care for the deteriorating appearance of Rodney Square,” he said.
“It’s time to restore this grand public square to not only its original glory, but to go beyond that vision to one that will improve the square and allow its upkeep to be more manageable while making the square itself more beautiful, attractive and useful,” said Mayor Mike Purzycki in a statement.
Hageman says the Rodney Square Conservancy—a group largely made up of business executives with ties to the square— worked with city and state officials to develop the plan to transform the square.
“What would make this more usable for the public? What would make this park more enjoyable and frankly a bit less of an eyesore than it had become?” said Hageman.
Hageman says two public input sessions about the renovation of the square were held at the Wilmington Public Library.
“One of the things that came out was a fountain that would be on the King St. side of the square, which would be a place where children could go in the warm months,” said Hageman. “Also with the proper lighting it would increase the aesthetics of the park. And if the walls were taken out of Rodney Square, it would be more welcoming for people to want to use the square.”
“This is an investment in the center of Wilmington to revitalize Rodney Square, attract new jobs and business to our city, and give all Wilmington families more options to get outside and enjoy everything our city has to offer,” said Gov. John Carney in a statement.
The first stage of renovations will be paid for by the City of Wilmington, which is contributing $1.5 million, the State of Delaware, which is contributing $1.8 million, and businesses including Buccini/Pollin Group, Chemours, Bank of America and M&T Bank. The first stage of renovations is expected to begin next month and finish early next year
The Rodney Square Conservancy is in the process of fundraising for the next stages.