SOUTHBRIDGE NEIGHBORHOOD PLAN PUBLIC WORKSHOP #1

Southbridge Neighborhood Plan
Public Workshop #1
February 16, 2021 | 6:00 – 7:30pm EST

46 attendees | 52 views on Facebook (as of March 02, 2021)

Click here to view theSouthbridge Public Workshop Slides #1 slides.

Public Workshop Goals:

  • Introduce attendees to the project team
  • Provide information on what the Neighborhood Plan is
  • Share findings and get feedback from attendees
  • Next steps

Introductions
The Southbridge Civic Association began Public Workshop 1 with updates from the Civic Association, remarks from Councilwoman Harlee, a project overview for the Southbridge Neighborhood Action Plan, and an introduction to the Project Team.

What is the Neighborhood Plan?
The Consultant Team discussed the purpose of a neighborhood plan, highlighting:

  • What it can do
  • What it can recommend
  • Ways community members can get involved

The Consultant Team also reviewed key findings from the 2006 South Wilmington Neighborhood Plan and the 2028 Comprehensive Plan for the City of Wilmington. The Consultant Team walked attendees through planning processes in Southbridge between the early 1900s — present day, and discussed the importance of having the neighborhood decide what goes into the updated neighborhood plan for Southbridge. 

Key Findings and Feedback
The Consultant Team shared a list of stakeholders, residents, and community leaders they interviewed. This list includes:

  • Councilwoman Michelle Harlee
  • Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon
  • Rich King (resident, Southbridge Civic Association)
  • Haneef Salaam (resident, community advocate)
  • Keith Selby (resident)
  • Marie Reed (resident)
  • Travis Smith (business owner)
  • Alison Windle (Neighborhood House)
  • Ella Edwards (Henrietta Johnson Medical Center)
  • Ellie Ezekiel (Delaware Nature Society)
  • Jennifer Adkins (Christina Conservancy, American Rivers)
  • Kate Dupont Phillips (Healthy Communities Delaware)
  • Bill Swiatek (Wilmington Area Planning Council)
  • Victor Perez (Professor at University of Delaware) 

The Consultant Team also shared key themes they heard in these interviews about “What people love about Southbridge”. These themes include:

  • A Strong sense of community and identity
  • The Wetland Park
  • Neighborhood institutions: Neighborhood House, Henrietta Johnson Medical Center, Mt. Joy United Methodist Church
  • The low crime rate

Feedback from public workshop attendees on “What people love about Southbridge” were similar to key themes found in stakeholder interviews. Examples of what attendees shared include:

  • “Roots in Southbridge run very deep”
  • “[People who have left Southbridge], come back to worship and for fellowship”
  • “[Accessibility and close proximity] to neighborhood resources like Neighborhood House”
  • “Civic Pride and long-standing institutions”
  • “Commitment to community”

The Consultant Team shared key themes from stakeholders interviews about the “Biggest challenges facing Southbridge”. These themes include:

  • Flooding, sea level rise
  • Getting everyone to the table and on the same page
  • Perceptions of crime
  • Development and changes to the neighborhood

Public workshop attendees highlighted that “Perceptions of crime” is one of the key challenges facing the neighborhood, particularly for residents living at the Southbridge Wilmington Housing Authority (WHA) complex. “Criminal activity” as well as frequency of crime was also discussed, where some residents feel that criminal activity is higher where they live–particularly at the WHA site and Lobdell St. & New Castle Ave–compared to other residents who do not experience high frequency of crime or criminal activity where they live. Another point that was raised was perceptions of crime in Southbridge of people who live outside of Southbridge–they perceived Southbridge to have a lot of crime.

The Consultant Team shared potential top priorities for the Neighborhood Plan that they identified from stakeholder interviews. These priorities include:

  • Equitable Development — make sure Southbridge benefits from development 
  • Affordable Living and Quality Housing
  • Local Entrepreneurship
  • Improved Mobility — biking, walking, public transportation
  • Resilience to Flooding and Sea Level Rise

Public workshop attendees suggested that the Consultant Team consider adding “education” as a top priority for Southbridge. They also shared that when Elbert-Palmer Elementary School closed, it removed a neighborhood and historical asset for Soutbridge, including programming and development opportunities for youth.

The Consultant Team also shared data findings related to the top priorities. The Team highlighted that data for Southbridge may be skewed because Christina Landing is grouped with Southbridge when using Census Data. The Consultant Team also shared things to consider for the Southbridge Neighborhood Plan. These findings include:

  • Equitable Development
    • How can we make sure employers in the surrounding area are bringing jobs and other benefits for residents?
    • How can we minimize negative consequences of new development and industry?
    • How can we better space out industry from residential uses?
    • What job opportunities are missing in the neighborhood?
  • Affordable Living and Quality Housing
    • What impacts have COVID-19 had on income levels and housing availability, affordability, values, and occupancy/vacancy rates?
    • Does the existing housing types and prices meet the needs of Southbridge residents (renters and owners)?
    • What are some ways to repurpose or redevelop vacant housing units into more useful and needed development?
    • How can we try to make sure housing available is of high quality?
  • Local Entrepreneurship
    • How can we increase locally-owned businesses so the community can take charge of economic development in Southbridge and South Wilmington?
    • How can we make sure employers in Southbridge are bringing jobs and other benefits for residents?
    • What job opportunities are missing in the neighborhood?
  • Improved Mobility
    • How can we reallocate street space for physically distant physical activity, such as walking and biking, and connect places?
    • What do we need to know to better understand on-street parking demand and off-street parking availability to discourage parking on sidewalks?
    • How do we prioritize walking and biking along existing bridges to the rest of Wilmington?
    • What is the state of truck traffic in Southbridge?
  • Resilience to Flooding and Sea Level Rise
    • How can we reduce or prevent flooding in Southbridge?
    • How can we work with industry to make sure flooding doesn’t lead to toxic substances beings spread about the community?
    • How can we prepare for the health and social consequences that are expected from climate change and flooding?
    • Where can we install rain gardens and other infrastructure to reduce flooding? 

Next Steps

The Consultant Team shared updates on next steps and ways for community members to get involved with the project, including:

  • Signing up for Working Groups
  • Helping to administer the Community Priorities Survey

About SWPN

Formed in 2009, the South Wilmington Planning Network (SWPN) is a collaborative partnership of residents and dozens of government, non-profit, and private agencies who work together to improve the quality of life in the Southbridge neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware.
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