Even though the latest debate in the Wilmington mayoral race focused on public safety, the conversation eventually moved into the development of the Wilmington Riverfront.
There was plenty of discussion Thursday night about reducing crime, how to best police the city, and other topics related to public safety.
But late in the debate, candidate Maria Cabrera took aim at the way the city’s Riverfront district has been developed over the past two decades. She blamed that process for contributing to ongoing poverty in Wilmington, which increases crime.
“I see a city, a state that invested half a billion dollars to build a new city [at the Riverfront] and they did not economically revitalize this city and its people by giving them jobs,” Cabrera said. “They should have mandated hiring of minority businesses and the people of the city of Wilmington and that was not done and that was the biggest crime and the biggest sin. That is the crime that we’re suffering in Wilmington now.”
Her attack on the Riverfront could be seen as an attack on mayoral candidate Mike Purzycki. Purzycki has been executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation since 1996. “I don’t blame Mr. Purzycki, because he didn’t negotiate the contracts,” Cabrera said.
Purzycki answered Cabrera’s charges, talking about ways the Riverfront gives back to the city.
“Maria said it wasn’t my fault but she really whacked the Riverfront,” Purzycki said. “Riverfront gives $7 million back to the city each and every year. We have hundreds and hundreds of people working from our communities at the ShopRite, at the Chase Center, and at our restaurants. The city got paid for every single piece of ground that it sold. The city got a million two for the land that Justison Landing is on. I mean, that’s prime dollar so I’m sorry, it was a good deal for the city.”
According to a 2012 study by the University of Delaware, Wilmington has received approximately $50 million in new public funds due to the Riverfront’s development since its inception in the mid-1990’s. Similarly, the State of Delaware has received $173 million in public revenue.