Wilmington and its Partners Kick Off Green Wilmington Project in West Center City
Cleanup of a vacant lot at 5th and Madison Streets is part of the Mayor’s Beautiful City and West Center City initiatives
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki today joined City Council President Dr. Hanifa Shabazz, 5th District Council Member Va’Shun “Vash” Turner, and the City’s Green Wilmington partners to complete the cleanup of a vacant lot at the corner of 5th and Madison Streets. The event kicked off a public greening effort in Wilmington that is a continuation of the Mayor’s ongoing Beautiful City and West Center City initiatives.
Green Wilmington is a collaboration among the City of Wilmington, Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank, Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), The Nature Conservancy in Delaware, Creative District Wilmington, and neighborhood partners such as the Challenge Program, to clean, restore, and stabilize vacant lots in the city using best practices in public greening.
“This joint effort is a wonderful example of people with a common objective coming together to help make Wilmington a cleaner, more attractive city, and also improve the quality of life for the residents of West Center City,” said Mayor Purzycki. “Thanks to partners like the Delaware Center for Horticulture and its return-to-work program, individuals are gaining valuable skills and work experience in green jobs while our neighborhoods benefit from cleaner, safer environments.”
The Mayor said a study completed in Philadelphia and published earlier this year by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found that cleaning up vacant lots leads to a reduction in crime, more socializing outdoors, and increased perceptions of safety in the surrounding neighborhoods.
Work at the 5th and Madison Street lot began in this morning, with DCH’s Branches to Chances trainees and participants in the Challenge Program working together to plant eight trees, generously donated by Mt. Cuba Center, and to install a fence around the perimeter of the lot. The clean-up served as a hands-on learning experience for teams from both organizations, with professional staff providing cross-training for DCH trainees in fence installation and Challenge Program participants in tree planting.
“This was very big for this community and the City of Wilmington,” said Council Member Turner. “We speak about public-private partnerships all the time, [but] a lot of time we don’t know what that looks like. Now we do have a representation of what that looks like. This was a community effort. This was private partners and public entities coming together to get this done.”
The lot clean-up, made possible through a grant of about $15,000 to the Delaware Center for Horticulture by The Nature Conservancy, is the first of several lot projects scheduled for the West Center City area in the coming months.
"The protection and well-being of urban green spaces is part of The Nature Conservancy’s mission to conserve the land and waters on which all life depends,” said Maria Dziembowska, Director of Urban Conservation for The Nature Conservancy of Delaware. “Science shows us that protecting and stewarding natural resources in urban areas brings many community benefits, from reduced stress and increased concentration to lower crime and improved feelings of safety."
The Green Wilmington model is based on a nationally recognized method adopted by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) for their “Clean and Green” program, which has installed and maintained interim landscape treatments to over 12,000 parcels covering 16 million square feet of vacant lot. The West Center City pilot project seeks to apply this concept to additional vacant properties in other parts of Wilmington.
“PHS’s model provided the roadmap for the work we are doing here in the city of Wilmington; however, we are definitely putting our own stamp on the process here in Delaware,” said DCH Executive Director Vikram Krishnamurthy. “One of our greatest organizational strengths is our ability to connect the right partners on the right projects, and Green Wilmington is no exception. This initiative is so exciting because of the energy and expertise each of the collaborators brings to the table, rooted in the relationships we have with neighborhood residents.”
Multiple city agencies, including the Department of Real Estate and Housing, have helped to identify and assist with the properties chosen for the Green Wilmington initiative. The lot at 5th and Madison Streets is composed of three separate parcels – two owned by Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware and the third owned by the City of Wilmington – that are being combined for this project. The Wilmington Neighborhood Conservancy Land Bank, which is assisting the effort with the transfer, acquisition and/or disposition of properties, will ultimately take ownership of the three parcels.
“We are so excited to be a part of this great initiative in West Center City,” said Laura Semmelroth, Creative District Strategist for Wilmington Renaissance Corporation. “Turning vacant lots into vibrant community spaces is a priority in the Creative District and we are glad to see this effort replicated in the neighborhood next door.”
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