Wilmington’s Browntown community is one of two in Delaware chosen to receive special attention and localized training with the goal of improving the neighborhood’s quality of life.
Browntown, west of I-95, is one of the state’s newest “blueprint communities.” The University of Delaware and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh will work with a nine-member leadership team in the historic but troubled neighborhood to create positive change.
UD School of Public Policy and Administration Maria Aristigueta said during Thursday’s kickoff at Girls Inc. in Browntown that according to the 2010 US Census, the neighborhood has more than 750 households and 2,200 residents.
“These people and families have aspirations,” Aristigueta said. “They want to live in a safe and pleasant community, in a city that provides them with job opportunities, a good education for their children, decent housing, and access to affordable healthcare.”
The local leaders will meet with UD professors and graduate students to develop leadership skills, expand community involvement and work towards addressing and meeting Browntown’s pressing needs.
“It really is a bottom-up, grass roots approach,” Congressman John Carney added.
Browntown has boundaries that include I-95 and railroad tracks. Over the summer, the neighborhood was rocked by the shooting death of Norman Alhout, the beloved owner of Johnny’s Food Market, at the business on Maryland Avenue. Since then, the community held a fall festival and expanded efforts to create more opportunities for young people in the neighborhood.
Attorney General Beau Biden said he walked through Browntown just a few weeks before Alhout’s murder.
“We have to find creative solutions,” Biden said.
Lifelong Browntown resident Ron Krystopolski, now President of the Browntown Civic Association and a member of the Blueprint leadership team, said there is a lot of work ahead. He’s hopeful the initiative will help Browntown create more affordable housing options while reducing crime, shootings and drug activity in the neighborhood. Krystopolski added that will take much more than the nine-member Browntown team.
“I think people are going to start to want to get involved, and that’s what we need,” Krystopolski said. “That’s what we need – more people.”
The blueprint training program will begin in December. Georgetown in Sussex County was also added Thursday to the blueprint initiative, which began in 2008 with Wilmington’s Eastside, Hilltop / Little Italy and Riverside, along with Edgemoor, Historic Overlook Colony and Vicinity and Simonds Gardens in New Castle County. Officials say the revitalization efforts have resulted in at least $27-million in community activity.