Mayor Purzycki Announces Partnership of a Cityfest/Urban Artist Exchange and the Urban Bike Project in Eastside Wilmington
The former WPD mounted patrol horse stable and Urban Environmental Center will become a multidisciplinary arts incubator and permanent home of the non-profit community Urban Bike Project
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki today announced that Cityfest, Inc. and the Urban Bike Project of Wilmington have entered into a unique partnership that will further the mission and vision of both organizations. The Mayor said the agreement will create a unique and lasting purpose and use for the former Wilmington Police Department Mounted Patrol Stables, located at 1500 North Walnut St. in the Eastside Brandywine Historic District.
Purzycki today thanked 3rd District Council Member Zanthia Oliver and Council Member At-Large Loretta Walsh for co-sponsoring a Council Resolution on September 21 that paved the way for the agreement. The Mayor said the City has signed two concurrent 15-year lease agreements with Cityfest Inc. and the Urban Bike Project that detail how the two groups will jointly use the historic City-owned property.
Cityfest, Inc. is a non-profit, quasi-City entity that is staffed by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs. It is the same entity that produces and manages many of Wilmington’s renowned arts and cultural programs, including the Riverfront Blues Festival, Art Loop Wilmington, the Wilmington Children’s Chorus and the nationally-acclaimed DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival.
The Mayor said Cityfest’s new initiative at the 1500 Walnut Street site—The Urban Artist Exchange—will create a dynamic and engaging creative space for artists and a place where citizens can enjoy the work of area artists. Cityfest President and Acting Cultural Affairs Director Tina Betz said Cityfest will transform the facility into a multidisciplinary arts habitat.
Betz said Cityfest will conduct a two-stage renovation of the stables and surrounding grounds, with phase one expected to begin in September 2018 and be completed in about a year. She said phase two should start by January of 2020 and also be completed within a year. The renovation, Betz said, is envisioned to include an open-seat amphitheater, an outdoor public art exhibition and sustainable landscaping to support the space. The project is estimated to cost $975,000. Betz and Purzycki said an Urban Artist Exchange will establish the historic former Old City Stables as a distinctive destination known for welcoming creative people and using the arts to transform the Eastside neighborhood in which it is located physically, socially and culturally.
The Urban Bike Project (UBP) of Wilmington, a non-profit community bike shop founded in 2006, has occupied the main building on the stable grounds since 2013. UBP supports Wilmington communities by providing access to bicycling as a healthy, affordable and practical mean of transportation and recreation according to Executive Director Laura Wilburn. She said the organization focuses on education and mechanical self-reliance, teaching Wilmington residents and youth in need about bicycle repair and maintenance using shop-quality tools. The Urban Bike Project’s programs serve more than 1,000 Wilmington residents each year, introducing them to the exciting ways that bicycles can impact community.
Under the new agreement, UBP will continue to use that space for the operation of a bike maintenance, repair and retail space, for providing educational assistance to City residents, and for hosting fundraising and community events. UBP will also be responsible for a two-stage renovation of the main structure that will begin no later than April 2020 and cost upwards of $250,000. UBP Executive Director Laura Wilburn says the group actually plans to begin work much sooner and could end up spending an estimated $450,000 to improve the building.
"The power of the bicycle lies in its ability to connect us - with nature, with our neighborhoods, with resources and jobs, and with each other,” said Wilburn. “Our shop brings diverse people together, across all ages and neighborhoods, which can be a powerful tool for change in Wilmington. Art, like bikes, also brings us together. I’m so excited to work with CityFest to create a vibrant and thriving community hub that provides a beautiful and positive space for Wilmington residents to enjoy. I want to thank Cityfest, the Mayor's Office, and City Council for making this possible."
The former WPD horse stables were completed for use by the City Water Department in 1906. In the 1920’s the property became an auto repair business before later reverting to a horse stables used by the Wilmington and New Castle County Police Department’s Mounted Patrols. Most recently, the former Urban Environmental Center was housed at the site, offering community programs and summer camps.