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How Wilmington’s New Riverfront Development Brings A Wave Of Opportunity To The City

A rendering of Riverfront East in Wilmington, Delaware.

The prime location and business-friendly policies of Delaware’s largest city, Wilmington, are drawing notice from commercial real estate owners, developers and investors from across the country.

Wilmington is located centrally between Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York City, some of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Despite its small size, nearly 1.5 million businesses are incorporated in Delaware, including some of the world’s most recognizable brands like Amazon, Coca-Cola and Apple. Last year, more companies announced plans to relocate their physical headquarters to Wilmington, bringing more new jobs and residents to the city.

Now, Wilmington’s budding Riverfront East development is aiming to revitalize the city’s living and working experience for current and future residents alike.

“We see Riverfront East as a way to continue to grow our city, grow our economy and bring more people to work and live in Wilmington,” said Megan McGlinchey, executive director of the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware. “We see it as a catalyst to take Wilmington into the next century.”

Riverfront East is an 86-acre mixed-use development with 4.7M SF of residential space, 350K SF of retail and 1.9M SF of office space. It will also include 13 acres of proposed public green space, strategically placed throughout the development. 

About 80 years ago, the land that occupies Riverfront East was an industrial hub of the mid-Atlantic region. Over time, this 86-acre space became disused and underutilized. RDC saw this as a chance to bring life back to an area once thriving with business.

“We see this as a great opportunity to renew the spirit of Wilmington,” McGlinchey said. “Having been focused on the city’s waterfront development for the past 26 years, RDC is planning further development in order to bring more opportunity and a prosperous future to the city of Wilmington. We are confident this development will attract an array of developers across all industries.”

Since 1996, the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware has been primarily focused on the development of the west bank of the Christina River, Riverfront West. Now that the space is mostly built out, expansion over to the east bank is the next step in reshaping the residential and tourist experience of Wilmington.  

Outdoor community spaces are an integral part of Riverfront East. In addition to the existing riverwalk at Riverfront West, Riverfront East is poised to have 3,500 feet of riverwalk, complete with a dedicated bicycle lane. A cohesive network of walking paths and bike lanes will also be found throughout the development, easily accessible to residents and visitors. This will create a sense of livelihood that will be felt throughout the waterfront area, McGlinchey said.

“Shared spaces like parks and greenery foster a feeling of unity and equity within the community,” she said. “Riverfront East is a place where people from all over the city can live, work, play and more.”

Sustainability and the climate resiliency of Riverfront East are also essential to the Riverfront Development Corporation’s mission of providing Wilmington residents with a long-lasting sense of pride and community.

Through the state of Delaware’s brownfield program, RDC is cleaning up the entire 86 acres, bringing in clean fill and raising the elevation so that site is out of the 100-year flood plain. With sustainability and longevity in mind, the ultimate goal is to create developable sites that will then be bid out to private developers, McGlinchey said.

She said the federal grants and $60M in funding from the state of Delaware to plan and build infrastructure helped spur the creation of Riverfront East immensely.

“Wilmington is open for business,” she said. “At Riverfront East, we are looking for developers that haven’t looked at our city before. Our goal is to recruit different types of developers and gain contacts within each industry so we can strengthen our community.”

This article was produced in collaboration between Delaware Prosperity Partnership and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

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