Riverside redevelopment gets $26M from ARPA funds
WILMINGTON – A who’s who of elected leaders, nonprofit executives and housing advocates gathered Monday morning at a Riverside construction site to celebrate a major infusion of federal funds into an ambitious redevelopment project.
Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, Mayor Mike Purzycki and all three federal elected officials attended a press conference off Rosemont Avenue in Wilmington’s northeast Riverside community to announce a $26.4 million investment in public housing under the REACH Riverside project.
As part of the $1.9 trillion America Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) signed by President Joe Biden in March, Delaware received $1 billion to spend for COVID-19 response and investments to spur economic growth in the wake of the pandemic. Carney directed the Riverside investment from those funds as one of the first major allocations of ARPA funds to increase public housing and construction jobs.
“This opportunity, presented with the American Rescue Plan Act and Build Back Better, will enable us to supercharge and accelerate the development of these units to bring them online five or six years sooner than they otherwise would, and that’s critically important,” Carney said in announcing the investment.
The REACH Riverside master-planned community, which largely bounds Northeast Boulevard and the Brandywine Creek to the city limits, is designed with the principles of “purpose-built communities,” a holistic approach of housing, education and health care meant to tackle areas of concentrated urban poverty.
Once complete, the entire Riverside redevelopment will include 600 high-quality, mixed-income rental and for-sale homes along with a new Kingswood Community Center and Early Learning Academy that will serve as the foundation of a cradle-to-college/career education pipeline for the community. The Warehouse, a teen-designed, co-working and service delivery space focused on serving the city’s teen population, as well as EastSide Charter School also serve the greater community.
Partnering with the Wilmington Housing Authority and developer Pennrose, REACH Riverside broke ground in December on its first phase of the project that will tear down deteriorating public housing and build new units. The first phase is building 74 one- to four-bedroom townhouses by next summer near the intersection of Rosemont Avenue and Todds Lane.
The ARPA funds will allow REACH Riverside to accelerate its building plans from about 141 homes to nearly 350 homes in the next two years, said Logan Herring, CEO of the nonprofit. With the original projection of finishing all 600 homes in 24 years, Herring said that may be accomplished in as little as five years.
“Things are now sped up tremendously,” he said, noting that the original timeline was also much longer due to the low-income housing tax credits attached to the project.
Prior to Monday’s announcement, the state had invested $13 million into the Riverside project, primarily through bond bill allocations. With the investment of the ARPA funds, the housing project will need to secure about $25 million more in the next few years to complete the final three phases of building, Herring said, noting that he is also hopeful to raise the necessary gap financing for the associated Kingswood Community Center redevelopment by the end of this year.
The dramatic acceleration of funding means Herring will be able to expand the scope of his group’s vision faster as well, he said. In particular, hundreds of new residents in Riverside in two years will need retail, restaurants, recreation and other amenities as well.
“Similar to the Riverfront and downtown, we’re not going to stop anytime soon,” he said. “We’re going to have to focus on everything to make this a vibrant and thriving community.”
The project was expected to create about 125 construction jobs, and Herring noted that construction manager DiSabatino Construction has tried to make an impact in its hiring. About 80% of companies working on the project are from Delaware, and 20% are either minority or disadvantaged business enterprises. Of the 12 new hires for DiSabatino, eight are Section 3 residents and six are city residents, far more than are required, he added.
“That’s a big deal,” Herring said. “If you were to walk around the site … you’ll see people that are reflective of this community.”
Remarking on the rare collection of nearly every major state official in one place, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said, “Look at who’s come to this moment. Look at the foundations, the corporations, the builders and developers, the state and local elected officials, the federal officials. We’re all in. We’re all in and we’re all here because we’ve heard voices from this community for years saying it’s not enough to just show up at election time. It’s not enough to just show up at one service, it’s not enough to just show up when it’s convenient to you. We need investment to rebuild this community, from the ground up.”