Rodney Square to get $6 million to $8 million overhaul

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A $6 million to $8 million dollar renovation of Rodney Square is getting under way, thanks to a joint effort from a public-private partnership.

“It’s time to restore this grand public square to not only itsoriginal glory,but to go beyond that vision to one that will improve the square and allow its upkeep to be more manageable while making the square itself more beautiful, attractive and useful,” said Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki. “The city is very grateful to be able to support the efforts of the Rodney Square Conservancy, whichin2016 set itself on a course to remodel and improve the square. These efforts are now underway with government and private support. It is a partnership that will revitalize and preserve historic Rodney Square for the entire community and for future generations.”

“I’ve called the City of Wilmington home for 30 years, and it’s clear that the success of our largest city is directly linked to our success as a state,” said Gov. John Carney. “This is an investment in the center of Wilmington to revitalize Rodney Square, attract new jobs and business to our city, and give all Wilmington families more options to get outside and enjoy everything our city has to offer. Across Wilmington, we’re makinginvestments in neighborhoods, in city schools, and critical infrastructure to help make sure that all Wilmington residents see and feel the benefits of Wilmington’s success.”

The multi-yearpublicandprivately-funded renovation project will include new masonry and paving, improved irrigation systems, upgraded lights and electrical system, lighted fountains, planters, benches and tables, trash and recycling collection bins, as well as new trees, shrubs and green areas.

The square is also being designed to accommodate a wider range of smaller community events in addition to the more traditional larger events staged at the square. Improved accessibility to the square and more community-based activities are the primary goals of the renovation project, a release from the City of Wilmington stated.

The announcement included renderings of the future Rodney Square so citizens have a better understanding of the improvements that are planned, as well as the following link to a video rendering of what is planned for the new Rodney Square:http://bit.ly/TheNEWRodneySquare

Current and committed financial support for the estimated $4 million cost of phase one of the Rodney Square project is being provided by the City of Wilmington ($1.5 million) and State of Delaware ($1.8 million), as well as by Bank of America, Chemours, M&T Bank, the Wilmington Library, the law firm of Young, Conaway, Stargatt and Taylor, the law firm of Richards, Layton and Finger, the Buccini/Pollin Group and by members of the Rodney Square Conservancy Board of Directors.

The Rodney Square Conservancy has retained the services of two landscape architectural firms—Robinson, Anderson, Summers, Inc., and OLIN—to complete a revitalization study of Rodney Square.

The renovation project is expected to break ground within the next month. Phase one is expected to be completed in early 2020.

Fundraising by the Conservancy continues in order to support phase two of the project. As for two of the more well-known Rodney Square events for this summer, the Mayor said the 2019 Clifford Brown Jazz Festival will be held in the square as planned in June during a construction hiatus. The Farmers Market on Wednesday’s will be relocated to Market Street between 10th and 11th Streets.

Rodney Square was one of the first models of the City Beautiful Movement of the early 20th century, which was aimed at improving the social order of the day by introducing more beauty into the urban landscape.

In 2011, Rodney Square, the Caesar Rodney equestrian statue and the Nemours Building were placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Rodney Square has been the subject of controversy after DART essentially dismantled a transithub. Backers cited congestion, diesel fumes and the fact that Rodney Square was not designed for transit as reasons for the move.

Critics have claimed that the corporate community and Gov. John Carney put pressure on DART to dismantle the hub.

An effort to restore the hub has continued, from a group of residents. They claim that decision led to riders, some elderly or with physical problems, walking several blocks to catch buses.

Ground was broken earlier for a new transit hub near the Wilmington Train Station.

A less visible issue has been Caesar Rodney. The signer of the Declaration of Independence reportedly owned 200 slaves.

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