Facade today, gone tomorrow?

osborne   a street wilmigton delaware 006.jpgThe Buccini Pollin Group has given $100,000 to the City of Wilmington for the Southbridge Facade & Beautification Program, which will be spent on improving things like shutters, awnings and light fixtures in the predominantly-minority neighborhood.

A kind gesture on its face, but property owners on the ground worry about what’s going to come next.

Last year, the city passed the South Walnut Street Urban Renewal Plan, which authorizes it to condemn 62 properties near the Christina River…and right next to Buccini Pollin’s new development, Christina Landing – a town house, apartment and condo community across the street from the targeted auto shops and industrial businesses.

Ed Osborne of Osborne’s Auto has been leading the fight to stop this threat, and through his efforts obtained copies of city e-mails about the proposed renewal plan.

One of the e-mails, from a company hired by the Riverfront Development Corp. to help craft the changes to the urban renewal plan, refers to the piece of ground bounded by A, Walnut and Market streets as the “Buccini-Pollin Triangle Plan.” Another is a talking-points memo from a Buccini-Pollin staffer to Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz about development in the triangle.

Ed has reason to be suspicious of Buccini’s sudden kindness. “I fear that today, the developer wants to change the face of the Southbridge homes…but tomorrow, they may want to change the face inside the homes,” Ed told me. “My guess is that there are homes there that need heaters repaired and fire protection systems and roofs fixed. That money would be better spent taking care of how people live inside their homes. It truly is a slap in the face to the homeowners: ‘Here – fix your homes up so you look better next to our new city.’”