A new shot of federal money will speed up plans to revitalize Wilmington’s Riverside neighborhood with affordable housing.
“This $50 million will rebuild this community with the urgency that it deserves and should have,” said Adrianne Todman, deputy secretary for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development. “$50 million that our secretary and the President and I want to invest in the people and in this community. We need to invest in people and in this economy from the bottom up and the middle out.”
The money could help the Wilmington Housing Authority complete the Riverside development project in less than 10 years, as opposed to its initial goal of 20 years.
“This award is going to allow us to accelerate the housing project we have planned,” said WHA’s executive director Ray Fitzgerald. “We’re going to be able to get the project done in less than 10 years, which is remarkable.”
The Riverside development project is a joint effort between the WHA, REACH Riverside, Kingswood Community Center, and Pennrose LLC. Construction began in 2018, and the Imani Village Apartments are expected to be fully built out by 2031.
“We already currently have 141 new homes, but we’ll have over 700 new homes by 2031,” said Logan Herring, REACH Riverside CEO, adding that individuals are already living in the homes already built.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons said the community has come a long way from years when the Kingswood Community Center nearly had to close its doors for good in 2010. He said with its leadership and community engagement, the neighborhood is ready to thrive.
“At Kingswood, at the nearby Eastside School, there just wasn’t a sense of forward movement, of lift, of investment, of opportunities,” Coons said. “Well, look at what a difference these 13 years have made. Step by step, brick by brick, volunteers, donors, investors from the community and from across our state and our country have invested because there’s been leadership. There’s been a vision. There’s been a plan. And there’s been a community that deserved this investment.”
Organizers hope the next chapter in Riverside’s story will bring a better quality of life for the next generation.
“They just can’t wait. We’ve already been on a tour. So with them seeing it, they’re like ‘I can’t wait mom,’” said Alison Mendez, a single mother of two daughters.
Mendez has lived in Riverside for more than six years. She remembers the crime in the area, even someone being shot behind her house. But with the revitalization effort, she’s eagerly awaiting the day she can move into her new home. She’s on phase four of the application process and expects to move in next year.
“I won’t move in until about maybe 2024, the end of that year. So I’m thinking hopefully Christmas, that’ll be a nice Christmas present for the kids,” she said. “It might give them a chance of hope and to better themselves. They want to do good with themselves.”
Even with the $50 million in federal funding announced Tuesday, officials estimate that the project will cost $600 million. They’ve raised $230 million and are asking community donors to help address the affordability crisis.