The upbeat narrative for downtown Wilmington is gaining traction.
Delaware Today joined the growing chorus of optimism with a cover story carrying the headline “Wilmington is Back.”
The cover piece drew the attention of Fox 29’s Good Day Philadelphia show, which paid a couple of visits to downtown, including a stop at a favorite downtown breakfast and lunch spot, The Sterling Grill.
We have also seen upbeat sentiments in the development and commercial real estate community and took note of the progress on Market Street last week in this space.
This comes despite challenges that include the possibility of a higher office vacancy rate if and when the Bank of America (MBNA) complex goes on the leasing market and the departure of many long-time small businesses.
One reason for the optimism comes out of continuing investment in downtown, primarily by locally based Buccini/Pollin Group. More recently, we are seeing more developmentfrom outside BPG in the form of new apartments and hotels.
Downtown apartment vacancy rates are in the single digits, despite a spurt in the number of big developments.
The new narrative comes after a long run of downbeatcoverage that included the well-craftedMurdertown USA Newsweek piece in late 2014. Murdertown shook up the status quo by going viral, despite being ignored by most of the local media. The mayor at the time was dismissive of the story.
Sadly, Murdertown USA eventually spurred a flood of “me too” pieces that basically ignored the positive developments that were beginning to bubble to the surface.
None of this means that Wilmington is out of the woods. The murder rate is down by double digits, but a few bad days could change the numbers.
The education system in the city remains in flux and is in dire need of additional investment in new schools and innovative strategies.
And efforts to turn around other areas are badly in need of human and financial resources.
Still, progress is apparent.Challenges – such asgentrification from new residentsthat has drivenup rents while pushing long-time residents out of neighborhoods in Philadelphia – are a long ways off.
The Delaware Today piece may have been a little boosterish, but it is closer to the truth than the gloomy reports we have seen up until now. – Doug Rainey, publisher.