Revitalizing Urban Riverfronts: Wilmington, DE

December 17, 2014 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Historically, Downtown Jacksonville's riverfront shares a lot in common with Wilmington's use of the Christina River. Over the last 15 years, Wilmington has successfully transformed its once decaying riverfront with a variety of mixed uses. Perhaps there's a lesson that may be applicable for downtown Jacksonville's future?

Wilmington Riverfront

Wilmington Riverfront’s revitalization began approximately fifteen years ago with the Delaware General Assembly’s creation of the Riverfront Development Corporation.  The RDC embarked on its mission of transforming an industrial wasteland into a thriving destination rich in history and filled with recreational, cultural, retail and culinary attractions.  As a result the Wilmington Delaware Riverfront has flourished into a widely recognized example of successful investments in sustainable urban redevelopment.  The area now comprises over 800,000 sq. ft. of office space, The Chase Convention Center, a multitude of restaurants, the Riverfront Market, the DuPont Environmental Education Center at the Urban Wildlife Refuge, The Delaware Children’s Museum, Beautiful Townhomes, The Blue Rocks minor league baseball stadium, Justison Landing apartments and condominiums, the Delaware Theater Company, the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts and the Wilmington Rowing Center.  
The Riverfront is one of the most sought after office locations in the greater Philadelphia Region.  It is home to the world headquarters of ING Direct, Barclay’s Bank’s US credit card headquarters, the headquarters for AAA of the Mid-Atlantic, and Amtrak’s east coast operations center.  Because of the area’s rich cultural and recreational attractions and it’s proximity to such esteemed employers, many people now choose to call Wilmington’s Riverfront home.  From rental communities such as The Residences at Christina Landing and The Residences at Justison Landing, to condominiums and Townhouses at River Tower and Justison Landing, the area is rich with life, activity and a sense of community

Christina Landing

Christina Landing was developed on the site of a large surface parking lot on the southbank of the Christina River

Former Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Company site

The Betts, Harlan & Hollingsworth Shipbuilding Company began operations in 1836 and was acquired by Bethlehem Steel in 1902. This redeveloped portion of Wilmington's riverfront is now home to the offices of Barclays Bank, the Delaware Children's Museum, Justison Landing Park, Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts, and Residences at Justison Landing.

Former Dravo Corporation Wilmington Shipyard site

Dravo Corporation's Wilmington Shipyard employed 10,500 during World War II, constructing Destroyer escorts. Dravo ceased operations at the Christina River site in 1985. In 1998, Dravo's former landing craft assembly plant became Wilmington's convention center, the Chase Center. Another warehouse became the Delaware Children's Museum.

Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, Iron Hill Brewery, Joe's Crab Shack, Big Fish Grill and the Shipyard Business Center occupy other portions of the former Dravo shipyard. On the riverfront, Dravo Plaza is a public space that feature preserved Dravo whirly cranes as sculptural exhibits.

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