South Wilmington, an area of the City of Wilmington along the Christina River, represents one of the most significant opportunities for economic development, community revitalization and ecologic restoration in Delaware’s coastal zone.
Industrial and heavy commercial uses dominate the area, particularly along the waterfront. A long industrial history has resulted in numerous areas with suspected or known soil contamination; an important consideration for redevelopment planning.
At the center of South Wilmington is the neighborhood of Southbridge, an underserved community of just under 1,900 residents. Southbridge’s location, surrounded by manufacturing, commercial and former industrial uses, has kept property values lower than in other areas of the region and as a result, Southbridge provides a concentration of affordable housing. However, its location has also contributed to a number of problems: its relative isolation makes attracting and retaining retail businesses that would serve the neighborhood difficult, the community has no waterfront access and has limited safe pedestrian access to the other side of the river. The community also contends with a number of environmental issues, caused or exacerbated by the surrounding land uses.
A large portion of South Wilmington lies within the 100-year floodplain and many locations experience chronic flooding issues. The City and the Southbridge community recognize that development activities that do not consider regional drainage issues will worsen these flooding issues. The City is also concerned that haphazard development will result in increased non-point source pollution, loss of wetlands, degradation of river vegetation and a lost opportunity to create community open space.
The South Wilmington Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) was developed to revitalize this area by improving long-standing environmental and flooding issues, providing new economic opportunities for community members, ensuring waterfront access, and creating new partnerships.
This planning process brought together community members, business leaders, not-for-profit organizations and professionals from City, County, State and Federal governments to work together towards comprehensively planning the revitalization of this area. The formal planning SAMP planning process was completed in 2008; agencies including the City of Wilmington, the Riverfront Development Corporation, the Wilmington HOPE Commission, the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Council and the Southbridge Civic Association continue to implement recommendations from the SAMP.
See a video about the South Wilmington Special Area Management Plan on DNREC’s YouTube Channel! This video, “Community, Collaboration and Commitment” features background information about the unique neighborhood of Southbridge and about the Plan and interviews with community members, city leadership and DNREC staff.