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Delaware / Economics / Guest posts / Urban development

There are two Wilmingtons. Here’s how you can help both

Now facing the “Murder Town USA” brand, all of Delaware needs to embrace how important Wilmington can be. For all its challenges, a lot is going right, and we need to support that to help the rest of this troubled city rise up.

Downtown Wilmington. (Photo by Flickr user Ron Cogswell, used under a Creative Commons license)
This is a guest post by Venu Gaddamidi, the owner of Veritas Wine & Craft Beer in Wilmington.

The City of Wilmington has been on the receiving end of a lot of bad press and negative comments, especially on social media. And it’s true that we have a disproportionate amount of crime for a city of our size. But the truth is that Wilmington is in the midst of its biggest overhaul since its founding.

How does one reduce poverty? Well, for starters, increase the number of jobs in Wilmington.

Upscale housing, entertainment venues, restaurants and family-oriented businesses are going up all over town. There are new collaborative plans for Wilmington creative corridor development. And there is a creative, technology and entrepreneurship revival happening.

Those of us who have chosen to invest in Wilmington — with our businesses, homeownership, rents, volunteer organizations and nonprofits — are the people who are making a change. But as targeted as it may be, the poverty and unemployment rates in Wilmington are stubborn. That continues to be why institutions like Wilmington University overlook our city core.
A third of people in Wilmington are living in poverty, compared to just 15 percent statewide, and the unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, above Dover and Newark and the statewide average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you want to reduce crime, then reduce poverty. How does one reduce poverty? Well, for starters, increase the number of jobs in Wilmington. Despite the impressive Wilmington skyline, those advantages aren’t helping most residents of the city.

Wilmington should 'steal' successful strategies from other up-and-coming cities.

If Wilmington could incentivize hiring its own residents, this could spur massive change. But all of this starts with the average Delawarean being part of the solution instead of casting judgment on the city’s problems. We’re fully aware of what’s wrong. It’s time to step up and do what’s right.
Philadelphia gives home buyers a ten-year tax abatement for buying homes that meet certain criteria — let’s try this in Wilmington. The residents might not pay property tax but they sure will spend money in the city.
Businesses need incentives to move their facilities downtown. City government must coordinate outreach efforts between city programs, nonprofits and community centers, churches and more. The police desperately need additional funding for more officers.
We can improve things not by reinventing the wheel, but by repeating the strategies that similar cities have adopted to successfully tackle crime and other critical issues. We need to assist existing neighborhood rehabilitation centers and open more recreational centers.
Some of you may say that you want to visit Wilmington but are afraid of the crime. The truth is that you would have to go severely out of your way to find the kind of crime you most fear. Sadly for those residents who have to confront these challenges everyday, the problem areas are limited to a small number of blocks in parts of town that most of you would never set foot in. Trolley Square, Market Street, the Proposed Creative District, Union Street and the Riverfront have some of the lowest crime rates in the downtown area.
Don’t just sit there and make disparaging remarks about the facts. Be a part of the change.

I’m not one to paint rosy pictures. Wilmington has some issues. And the problems can seem insurmountable. Right now, there are two Wilmingtons: one that is “Murder Town USA” and the one that is changing into a place we can all Live, Work and Play.
If you want to be part of the change that Wilmington needs, then let me give you some advice: join us.
Visit Wilmington. Buy a cup of coffee or concert ticket in Wilmington. Buy a home in Wilmington. Open a business in Wilmington. Vote in Wilmington elections. Don’t just sit there and make disparaging remarks about the facts. Be a part of the change by understanding and experiencing the truth of what life is and can be like in the City of Wilmington.

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