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Redevelopment of The Flats enters fourth phase

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Federal lawmakers, city and state officials, Woodlawn Trustee leaders, and project developers ceremonially break ground on the fourth phase of The Flats redevelopment. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – The $18 million fourth phase of an ambitious affordable housing redevelopment in the city’s west side, got underway Friday, as a delegation of state leaders celebrated the partnerships that made it possible.

The Flats, a seven-phase, $110 million complete-rebuild of 453 units in an early 1900s community off Bayard Avenue, has been underway for seven years already by owner Todmorden Foundation, a partner organization of the Woodlawn Trustees. The first three phases of development have created 221 modern apartments at below-market rates.

PHOTO COURTESY OF WOODLAWN TRUSTEES

The project is funded through a combination of federal, state, city and donated funds, though the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program contributes a large portion, said Richard Przywara, president and CEO of both Todmorden and Woodlawn. The Delaware State Housing Authority awarded the Phase IV project $1 million through LIHTC as well as another $5 million in construction and permanent financing through the state’s Housing Development Fund.

This recently completed Phase III of The Flats is fully leased. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The goal is still to complete all seven phases of the redevelopment, which will see older units torn down and modern ones built, by about 2030. Rents for the units, subsidized by the tax credits, make one-bedroom units available for as little as $330 a month, two-bedrooms for under $400 and three-bedrooms for under $500, for income-eligible tenants.

“Our goal is to make sure that affordable housing is pleasant and that it’s geared for families,” Przywara said, noting that Woodlawn would soon increase its visibility in the city by using green front doors for all of its units.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) asked attendees of Friday’s groundbreaking to keep in mind the generosity and vision of the community’s original builder William Bancroft at a time when there was no federal or state department to support public housing.

“This was rooted in Quaker values. William Bancroft, a successful mill owner, chose to take everything that he and his family had earned and put it into a remarkable vision,” Coons said.

Bancroft, for whom the adjacent Bancroft Parkway and many parks and schools are named after, also founded the Woodlawn Trustees, which is quietly one of the city’s largest landowners. He bought thousands of acres of farmland along what is now U.S. Route 202 and slowly sold them off for development, taking those profits and investing into affordable housing in the city of Wilmington.

“The vision that William Bancroft had of investing in families and in housing is one that has sustained generations of Wilmingtonians,” Coons added.

These decades-old units will soon be torn down for modern redevelopment of affordable units. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Dana Hanchin, president and CEO of HDC Mid-Atlantic, The Flats’ developer and leasing manager, said the need for affordable housing is overwhelming, noting 200 people applied for 77 Phase III units.

“The waiting lists for phase one, two and three are closed because it takes over two years to wait for housing. And that’s devastating, because when people call about needing affordable housing, they need it now,” she said, thanking the development partners for continuing to invest in redevelopment.

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), who has often shared her story of growing up in public affordable housing in Philadelphia before moving to a home in Wilmington, recalled the impact that such housing can have.

“I remember at the age of 10 when my family got our first home and what it felt like to be a kid to know that you would have some safety, some security and some warmth. It was a beautiful thing,” she said.

One such resident of The Flats is Vickie Jackson, who just recently moved to the complex from Philadelphia after struggling with homelessness over the years but has now found stability and a job. She said she feels safe and supported in the community.

“I’m just so blessed. When I got the call that I had been accepted, I couldn’t do anything but cry,” she said. “And when I saw my unit for the first time I cried again.”

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