UD center partners with groundbreaking collaboration in Wilmington's Eastside
1:33 p.m., Nov. 21, 2013--Despite some snow flurries and a fierce wind, community members and stakeholders on Wilmington’s Eastside gathered on Tuesday morning, Nov. 12, to witness the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) establishing the Eastside Housing Developer’s Collaborative.
This innovative partnership of several organizations will coordinate their efforts to rehabilitate housing, promote homeownership, improve public safety and expand employment opportunities in the portion of the Eastside neighborhood between 4th and 11th streets and Church and Walnut streets.
Building leadership skills
Wilmington’s Eastside is a participant in Blueprint Communities Delaware, a comprehensive neighborhood revitalization planning program launched jointly by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh and the University of Delaware’s Center for Community Research and Service (CCRS) in 2008.
To date the program has assisted 11 neighborhoods across the state to help them develop comprehensive revitalization plans, and to implement those plans.
For five years now, the Blueprint program has supported efforts by Eastside residents and community stakeholders to come together to envision a new and better future for their neighborhood. “The signing of this MOU is another very positive step forward in the revitalization of this historic African American neighborhood,” says Bahira Trask, an education professor who has been working closely with the Eastside community through the Blueprint program.
Like the Eastside neighborhood, each community participating in the Blueprint program has established a planning team that reflects the composition of the community and its different stakeholders.
Teams include residents as well as local nonprofit leaders, bankers and government officials. They receive training, technical assistance and coaching services to help them understand the theory and practice of community revitalization planning, how to establish goals and objectives, and how to bring different parties together to fund and implement improvement programs.
“What makes the Blueprint Communities Delaware program so successful is that it uses the creativity, talents, resources and determination of the community itself to make the community a better place,” says Raheemah Jabbar-Bey, assistant professor of public policy and administration.
She refers to this as an “asset-based approach” where distressed communities are not viewed as just places with problems, but as places with a variety of their own assets that can be used to solve problems.
The Rev. Terrance Keeling from Central Baptist Church and the Central Baptist Community Development Corporation serves as co-chair of the Eastside Blueprint planning team. At the signing event he noted that the MOU not only launches a new collaboration, but it also “solidifies an on-going collective community effort with the goal of building, remodeling or refurbishing 125 homes as part of a five-phased plan.”
Another unique aspect to this collaboration, which is specified in the MOU, is the goal that 30 percent of the people who will work on rehabilitating the homes will be Eastside residents trained by local labor unions. They will not only earn wages doing the work, but they will have the opportunity to enhance their skills in the construction trades for future living wage employment.
In addition to the Center for Community Research and Service and the Eastside Blueprint Planning team, the other signatories of the MOU are the Inter-Neighborhood Foundation, Habitat for Humanity New Castle County, Central Baptist Community Development Corporation, Wilmington Housing Partnership, Woodlawn Trustees Inc., American Baptist Churches of Pennsylvania and Delaware, Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council Inc., and Stepping Stones Community Federal Credit Union. The MOU was crafted with the generous pro-bono assistance of the Richards, Layton and Finger law firm.
Since 2008, the Eastside Blueprint Team has been working hard to solve problems that have limited the neighborhood’s growth and prosperity. The signing of the MOU marked the beginning of the next stage of the neighborhood’s efforts to revitalize itself physically, economically and socially.
Trask described the Eastside team and the new collaborative as “a transformative experience” when speaking at the MOU signing ceremony.
She went on to say that the Eastside Housing Developer’s Collaborative has the potential “to be a national model to affect change from the inside.” This “all hands-in” approach to community revitalization is what sets the endeavor apart from other models and efforts.
To learn more about the Eastside Blueprint Team and their accomplishments, visit the Facebook page.