‘Vacant to vibrant’ program remakes Wilmington one block at a time

This barren lot in Wilmington will become a green space for area residents to play and grow vegetables. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

This barren lot in Wilmington will become a green space for area residents to play and grow vegetables. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

An ongoing effort to battle blight in Wilmington will transform a long vacant lot into a community garden and green space.

Right now, a vacant lot sits at the corner of Seventh and West streets in the West Center City section of Wilmington. On Friday, the Wilmington Renaissance Corporation announced plans to turn the lot of dirt and gravel into an open “green oasis” for the community.

When completed in 2020, the 17,000-square-foot space will feature a multipurpose lawn area and raised beds for a community vegetable garden. Neighbors will be able to become members of the park and get their own plots to grow food.

“It’s going to change in a very big way,” said WRC’s Laura Semmelroth. “This upper area here will be lawn area, where you can throw a football, run around, sit on a bench, read a book.”

Semmelroth pointed to The Rock Lot as an example of what this empty block will become. The Rock Lot at 305 W. Eighth St. opened in August 2017 after its transformation from a vacant lot into a green space with outdoor seating for community events.

“We’ve been doing programming there for the past year … we had 55 days of programming this past summer, well attended, just really breathing life into the area,” she said.

Mayor Mike Purzycki said lots of small projects such as remaking this vacant lot are the way to improve neighborhoods and improve the city.

“One little project at a time, one gesture at a time, one moment of kindness to people that you don’t  know at a time — and then putting together beautiful places,” Purzycki. “You’re going to take a tired, old, and neglected corner and make it a beautiful place.”

Work will start next year on remediating the land so it’s safe and healthy for residents. The park space should open in 2020.

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