Many hope rebuilding neighborhoods on Wilmington’s Eastside will help turn things around in the city.
Elected officials alongside community and religious leaders held a ceremonial groundbreaking for the first phase of Eastside Rising in the 800 block of Bennett Street on Tuesday.
Seven new townhomes will be built as part of the $2.4 million housing initiative designed for families making between $30,000 and $80,000 a year.
The homes that used to sit on the now empty lot were torn down last December. Construction on the new “Bennett Street Townhouses,” is expected to get underway next month and be completed by December 2016. The housing project is being funded with state and private dollars and mortgage settlement money awarded to Delaware as a result of the financial crisis.
A community garden has also been planned, so residents can enjoy not only the open space, but also the nutritious fruits of their labor.
“We’re happy about the new construction, and the new homes and the new jobs, but we’re excited about the new opportunity to prove that this community can come together. That it can build more than houses. That we can build community and with the help of all those who have worked with us and have committed that the Eastside can and will rise again,” said Rev. Terrence Keeling, pastor at Central Baptist Church in Wilmington and the visionary behind the project.
“It’s a couple years ago now that I sat in your church basement and you explained your vision,” said, Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware. “You’ve made it real. And it is a holistic vision. It’s not just about the physical improvements, but it’s all about the investments in people.”
One of the investments Markell spoke of is Central Baptist’s workforce development program. Through the church, people have been receiving construction training so they have the qualifications needed to work on the homes.
“Some of these guys that have been standing out on the corners, that’s all they need is a chance. And that was part of what we wanted to do, was give them the opportunities to have a chance,” Keeling said.
Participants in the workforce development program were also offered housing counseling so they can ultimately own the homes they’re helping to build.
“It wasn’t just about brick and mortar, it was about changing people’s lives and uplifting and making a real change in the community,” Keeling said.
By providing jobs, a chance for homeownership and ownership over their communities, Keeling and the project’s stakeholders are hopeful for a citywide ripple effect.
The second phase of the project will get underway in February 2016, when townhomes on the other side of Bennett Street will be demolished.