Wilmington schools to add $18 million resource center with gym, theater and early learning center

The new facility will make resources more accessible to students going to school in downtown Wilmington.

A rendering of a building with a playground in front of it.

The Community Education Building features the blueprint of the upcoming Youth Development Center. (Courtesy of the Community Education Building)

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Downtown Wilmington will soon be home to a new education center designed to improve and enrich opportunities for students attending one of several schools inside the Community Education Building.

Adjacent to Wilmington’s central Rodney Square, the CEB once hosted hundreds of employees in Wilmington’s financial services industry for MBNA and then Bank of America. The high rise is now home to four schools with more than 1,500 kindergarten through college age students. The building also has space for various nonprofits and service groups to address the diverse needs of the school communities.

Soon, an $18 million Youth Development Center will join the amenities offered for students to use for both school-time and after-school programs.

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CEB leader Linda Jennings said the development of the new space was guided by feedback from both community members and students.

“We were hearing a lot about students needing safe, fun and inspiring places in the evenings, on the weekends and in the summer to learn, grow and play,” she said. The goal is “to make some of the work that we do in and around enrichment and our partnerships with after-school providers just more accessible to the students and families in and around this area of Wilmington.”

Plans are also underway to establish an early learning center for infants to preschoolers, emphasizing the significance of a good early childhood education.

“As we started to talk to people in the community and other stakeholders, [there’s a need] for more access to early learning,” Jennings said. “An early learning center will be part of it, it’ll be equipped to provide early learning services from 80 to 100 infants to preschool children.”

A rendering of a building as seen from above in Wilmington
The Community Education Building features the blueprint of the upcoming Youth Development Center. (Courtesy of the Community Education Building)

Many individuals face challenges in accessing resources, often due to transportation barriers.

Jennings envisions the center as a solution to overcome these barriers, as it’s situated closer to homes and will provide a spectrum of resources — from economic progress to physical and mental health.

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“We know there’s a lot of after-school providers that have programs that would be interesting and good for students, but sometimes there are barriers to students in certain communities or in this community. Accessing those [resources] requires a bus ride across town, so the other idea of supporting the community is to bring those programs to this facility,” she said.

“Currently we provide some workforce development support for families and we provide financial literacy coaching for families. So being able to expand that to more members of the community are at the heart of this as well,” she added.

The Youth Development Center will feature an early learning center, a fitness room, a gymnasium, a black box theater, and connected learning spaces dedicated to career, civic and life skills. Outdoor recreation areas and a basketball court will further enhance the center’s offerings.

This building’s uniqueness lies in its versatility. While serving students during the day, it will open its doors to other stakeholders and community members during afternoons and weekends.

With the expansion of its services and space, Jennings says they are actively seeking collaborations and partnerships with other organizations. This includes inviting them to bring in their programs or resources, and potentially renting space within the facility.

CEB is almost at its $18 million fundraising goal, with about $4 million remaining. Construction is planned to begin in the fall, and they aim to open in late summer 2025.

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