"What we're talking
about is perception," said Karen Marshall, project manager for
Greater Brandywine Village Revitalization Inc., a civic
partnership involving the Junior League of Wilmington, the
Episcopal Cathedral of St. John and Wilmington Senior Center.
The initial project,
due to be completed by summer, will include the installation of
new sidewalks, lighting and landscaping on the west side of
Market Street between 18th Street and Concord Avenue. That is to
be followed in 2004 by a similar project on the east side of the
If present plans
hold, that will be followed by an intensive effort to improve
the façades of the buildings in the commercial areas on both
sides of the street. "We want to bring grant money [to help
finance the improvements] up through 22nd Street," she said.
That, she explained, is in recognition of work being done on
behalf the neighborhood north of Vandever Avenue and east of
Market Street by Harriet Tubman United Methodist Church.
Department of Transportation in recent years has made similar
improvements to several other sections of the city, this project
differs in that it fits into a considerably more extensive
master plan for extensive commercial and residential development
of a large area on Wilmington's near north side.
Although part of the
city since 1869,
points to the key intersection of Concord and
Vandever Avenues with Market Street at the heart of
the Brandywine Village master plan area.
mansions line the 1800 and 1900 blocks on the west
side of Market Street
Next step will
be to improve the façades of buildings in the
has had a much older individual identity, which it still retains
even in a visible way. Before Wilmington was, the village, the
lower tip of Brandywine Hundred, was a mill town supporting as
many as a dozen Quaker-owned flour mills powered by the
Focal point around
which the redevelopment effort has evolved is the row of stone
mansions in the 1800 and 1900 blocks of Market Street, parts of
which date back to the early and mid-1700s. It was the
threatened destruction of one or more of them in the early 1960s
to make way for an office building and parking lot, which led to
the formation of Old Brandywine Village Inc., a civic
organization typical of the kind that were being established in
those early years of awakening public interest in urban historic
Interest has ebbed
and flowed during the intervening years, but Marshall said there
remains an active group of about 45 people promoting the future
of the area. The majority live there and most of the others have
close ties through such things as membership in the cathedral
Their common goal,
she said, is "to become an active, vital village again."
The vehicle being
used is the Main Street Program of the National Trust for
Historic Preservation. Brandywine Village is the only urban Main
Street site in Delaware. The Market Street commercial corridor
also has been designated an urban renewal area by the city of
that implementation of the area's master plan should not be
regarded as entirely future tense. Its development has been
accompanied by significant progress toward achieving the initial
goals. "The tide has already turned," she said.
Recent completed by
DelDOT were renovations to the Market Street Bridge, which links
Brandywine Village to downtown Wilmington. A national Job Corps
training center is being built on Vandever Avenue just east of
Market. The city has acquired a long-abandoned gasoline service
station at the foot of Concord Avenue, which will initially be
converted into a landscaped parking lot and eventually become
the location for commercial development. Billboards that were
considered eyesores have been removed from that intersection.
Wilmington Senior Center is now conducting a capital campaign to
finance conversation of two of the historic mansions into
apartment buildings for low- and moderate-income seniors.
significant of all in a symbolic way, she said, is the hiring,
through the senior center's employment service, of George
Galmore as street monitor. His job is to pick up liter. He's
enthusiastic about carrying out his duties and his efforts have
inspired imitation by private property owners.
"It may be a little
thing, but the decrease in the volume of trash lying around has
been very noticeable in just the few months that I have been
here," Marshall said.