Vacant to Vibrant project gets initial funding

From Delaware Public Media  WMPH 91.7 Wilmington | Delaware’s Source for NPR News

Wilmington’s Creative District is getting a financial boost through a new $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC) oversees the development of the Creative District.

Managing Director Dr. Carrie Gray said the grant will fund the planning of a project called Vacant to Vibrant. Her team plans to turn two vacant lots and two under used alleyways into artistic spaces.

The WRC’s Managing Director Dr. Carrie Gray says those alleys and lots are blank canvases and her team is still deciding on how to fill them.

“We’re expecting everything from a very serene, tranquil park-like setting to food truck rallies or arts and crafts festivals happen on that space or any kind of special event use that might be possible,” said Gray.

Gray adds the spirit behind the Creative District has always been creating spaces for gatherings and building an overall sense of community, and so before they start planning anything, WRC needs to involve the community.

“That will be part of the process, determining with the residents in the neighborhood and with artists and creatives in the creative district, on how they would like these lots to be used and function,” Gray said.

The spaces could be anything from quiet parks to spaces for local food trucks to gather, she said.

The WRC will likely have to apply for more grants to construct the projects. The planning and design deadline is winter of 2017.

Wilmington wins $75,000 NEA grant for pocket parks

From The News Journal

The Wilmington Renaissance Corp. will receive a $75,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help support the Vacant to Vibrant Pocket Parks and Passages program.

The announcement of the grant was a highlight of the WRC’s annual breakfast meeting Tuesday at The Queen in Wilmington. The nonprofit is a public-private partnership between mayor’s office and the corporate community that tries to bring people into Wilmington by designing and championing projects and cutting through red tape to get them done.

One of its newest ideas is to establish a kitchen incubator, where people who want or need to use a professional kitchen would be able to become a member and have a set number of hours to bake and cook there. Similar kitchens exist in New York and Philadelphia, and it’s one of the ways that small food companies get going.

Receiving a sizable grant through the endowment’s Our Town program is a bit of coup, officials said. Wilmington’s request was one of 240 projects asking for part of $4.3 million. The Our Town program focuses on using arts to create beautiful and resilient spaces. That in turn is supposed to help make living and working in the area more attractive to continue the momentum of turning undesirable locations into desirable ones.


The parks and passages program is one aspect of the WRC’s Creative District, which is designed to bring creative people – artists, musicians, designers, tech innovators, makers and manufacturers – into the city by providing reduced-cost space to work and live in an area west of Market Street’s concentration of arts institutions. The underlying theory is that the people who make up that demographic will then patronize the area’s dining and entertainment establishments, strengthening the base of a livable city.

The first house in the program, at 413 West Fifth St., has been finished and will go on the market soon, said Dr. Carrie W. Gray, WRC managing director. That house is being managed by Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware.

The NEA grant will be matched with in-kind work and funding, Gray said.

The Pocket Parks and Passages program is working with  Groundswell – a place-making firm in Philadelphia that helped create the Spruce Street Harbor Place park – to lead the community engagement process that will reimagine and redesign four vacant or underutilized parcels in the Creative District.

As that is happening, the WRC and district are going ahead with the 7th Street Arts Bridge. Its four areas include a “Be the Light, Spread Love” mural by Smashed Label located at Seventh & Tatnall streets, which should be painted soon; a “Musical Fence” temporary installation by New Wilmington Art Association artists Jen Hintz, Jessi Taylor and Anne Yoncha, proposed for Seventh  & West streets; the Jefferson garden, an ornamental garden designed by Andre Hinton at Seventh & Jefferson; and the Windsor wall mural to be created by Terrance Vann at Seventh & Windsor. The garden and Windsor mural are still going through a community engagement process.

Speakers at the meeting included Gov. Jack Markell,. who was not dressed as Badass Jack like he was at the Gridiron dinner Saturday night. He lauded the WRC for helping to make Wilmington attractive at a time when it’s a recognized national trend that many young people want to live in urban areas, not suburban ones, to be close to work, dining and entertainment.

One of the cornerstones of the Creative District is to attract businesses such as the Kitchen Incubator and NextFab, a makerspace that brings together people who need to manufacture something from a piece of machinery to an entire new product. Gray introduced NextFab CEO Dr. Evan Malone, saying he had just signed a lease at 807 West St. Gray quickly backpedaled on that, saying that while he had indeed signed a lease, “an amazing opportunity” had just reared its head and the company may or may not end up at 807 West.

Rounding out the speakers was Tanya Menendez, CEO and co-founder of Maker’s Row, a website that identifies and links American factories. She had been a banker who went into business with a friend producing leather goods. When they tried to find an American factory, they found it difficult. Brokers wanted to sell them lists, and they had no way to know if the factory would take them on because they wanted small batches, not large ones.

Their solution was to start the website, which is open to anyone to use. People think manufacturing is dead in America, but it’s not, Menendez said. They found that there are still 10,000 factories in the country that handle all kinds of manufacturing.

Once the website started, Maker’s Row also helped a lot of the manufacturers raise their profile through social media, learning email and creating ways for people to be able to use them. Some of the big firms had to be coached into being willing to create small batches and doing it quickly so budding entrepreneurs could handle the costs and also be able to sell things quickly.

“The biggest thing I have to leave is that the maker movement is here to stay,” Menendez said. “People are creating new products and they’re creating new businesses.”

Arts-based Community Development Investment for Wilmington

Wilmington Renaissance Corporation one of 64 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town projects selected nationwide

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu announced 64 awards totaling $4.3 million supporting projects across the nation through the NEA’s Our Town program. Wilmington Renaissance Corporation is one of the recommended organizations for an award of $75,000 to support Creative District Wilmington’s Vacant to Vibrant: Pocket Parks and Passages. The Our Town grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. The NEA received 240 applications for Our Town this year and will make awards ranging from $25,000 to $100,000.

“For six years, Our Town has made a difference for people and the places where they live, work, and play,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Projects such as the one led by Wilmington Renaissance Corporation help residents engage the arts to spark vitality in their communities.”
“The State of Delaware congratulates WRC and Creative District Wilmington on their NEA Our Town Award,” said Paul Weagraff, Director of the Delaware Division of the Arts. “This exciting community development project acknowledges the role the arts can play in addressing critical social issues and envisioning new possibilities within Wilmington’s creative landscape.”

Creative District Wilmington’s Vacant to Vibrant: Pocket Parks and Passages is an initiative to re-imagine and re-design 4 vacant, blighted and underutilized areas in the City’s Creative District. This creative placemaking project centralizes the arts in a planning process that fulfills the community’s vision for the area, builds upon community-driven programming to transform these challenged spaces into vibrant, attractive community gathering places filled with public art, performances and civic events. Vacant to Vibrant will partner with the City of Wilmington, neighborhood residents and award-winning placemaking design firm, Groundswell
Design Group to re-imagine and re-design four vacant, blighted and underutilized areas in the City’s Creative District. The final plans will then be utilized to secure the necessary funding to implement the new vision for these four areas.
For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, please visit the NEA web site at The NEA’s online resource, Exploring Our Town, features case studies of more than 70 Our Town projects along with lessons learned and other resources. To join the Twitter conversation about this announcement, please use #NEAOurTown16.
About Creative District Wilmington
Wilmington’s Creative District is a part of a national wave of creative placemaking initiatives that seek to transform urban areas. The Creative District encompasses the area bounded by Fourth, Ninth, Market and Washington streets and, with the active engagement of public and private partners, will continue the momentum of investments made in recent years in LOMA and along the Market Street corridor. The Creative District is focused on creative production and consumption. It’s a place where creative entrepreneurs—artists, musicians, designers, tech innovators, makers and manufacturers—and neighborhood residents thrive, and where locally designed goods and original works are made and consumed. The Creative District will engage the community—current and future residents, as well as civic and business leaders—in a wide range of initiatives and programs that include affordable housing, greening and streetscape projects, real estate development, programming and community engagement activities, public art and public performance projects, and centers for creative entrepreneurship.

Creative District Wilmington projects are generously supported by: Bank of America, CityFest, City of Wilmington Dept. of Cultural Affairs, City of Wilmington Dept. of Real Estate & Housing, Colonial Parking, Connections CSP, Delaware Division of the Arts, Delaware Dept. of State, Delaware State Housing Authority, Delmarva Power, Downtown Visions, DuPont, FHLB Pittsburgh, Gable Music Ventures, Highmark Delaware, IBEW Local #313, Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware, JPMorgan Chase, Longwood Foundation, Lowe’s, MSP Equipment Rentals, National Endowment for the Arts, NCALL, NeighborWorks America, TD Bank Foundation, United Way of Delaware, and WSFS Bank.

WRC’s 10th Annual Meeting: Wilmington’s Future is in the Making

Our 10th Annual Meeting will update attendees on the continuing development of Wilmington’s Creative District (CD), to create, a vibrant city center, focused on innovative production and consumption, where creative entrepreneurs – artists, musicians, designers and tech innovators – and neighborhood residents thrive and where locally designed goods and original works are made and consumed. Governor Jack Markell will speak at this year’s event. Last year the event sold out with more than 250 attendees. This is an outstanding networking and marketing opportunity, as well as chance to support the individuals and organizations that are making Wilmington a better place to live, work, play and learn.



For tickets, purchase here or call 302.425.5500.

For sponsorship information call 302.425.5500 x104


A special thanks to our 2016 Annual Meeting Sponsors

(as of 3.24.15)



Makerspaces: Fostering a 21st century business model

From Dr. Carrie W. Gray, Managing Director of  WRC, Special to the News Journal

I’m not surprised that Wilmington was recently named by DataFox as No. 5 on the list of 2015’s Best Cities to Found a Startup Outside Silicon Valley and New York.

Why should I be?

In the last five years, Wilmington’s start-up community has skyrocketed. Growing from hacking sessions and Meet Ups hosted at The coIN Loft (Wilmington’s first co-working space for tech-minded startups), to two more co-working/start up incubators, a second successful Tech2Gether conference, the launch of Delaware Innovation Week, Zip Code Wilmington and a chapter of Girl Develop It – it’s clear that Delaware’s tech community is only going to get bigger and better.

Continue reading

Wilmington Renaissance Corporation, Creative District Wilmington and partners announce: NextFab New Addition to Wilmington’s Creative District

NextFab Studio, LLC, d.b.a. NextFab (“NextFab”) will soon expand operations south of Philadelphia and open a makerspace in downtown Wilmington with assistance from a $350,000 Delaware Strategic Fund grant recently approved by the Council on Development Finance.

“Known for our willingness to embrace change and foster growth, Delaware welcomes NextFab’s pioneering business model, bringing with it a focus on entrepreneurship and product development,” Governor Jack Markell said. “The company’s creative approach to making much-needed technological resources and education available, as well as its commitment to reinvigorating American manufacturing, makes NextFab a perfect addition to Wilmington’s downtown Creative District.”

Founded in 2009 by Dr. Evan Malone, NextFab’s mission is to foster personal fulfillment, innovation, and economic development through providing broad-based awareness of, access to, competence with, and commerce enabled by Next-generation digital design and Fabrication technologies and services. Like a gym for exercising your creativity, there are no prerequisites to joining NextFab as a member, and NextFab’s member community includes more than 650 individuals from every conceivable background. NextFab members have direct access to state-of-the-art equipment, software, training, consultants — everything they need to master new tools and techniques, and turn an idea into a product and product into a business. NextFab’s instructors and consultants span an enormous range of disciplines and experience, including engineering, arts, business, and science. NextFab currently operates two facilities in Philadelphia, and plans to open its latest 3,500 square-foot facility in Wilmington’s Creative District in the first half of 2016

“It has been more than a year since Dr. Carrie Gray of Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC) brought a stakeholder group from Wilmington to visit us in Philadelphia. Since that time, my colleagues and I have made frequent trips to Wilmington, and have been warmly welcomed into the community and inspired by champions of the past, present, and future of the city,” recalled Dr. Malone. “NextFab is honored and humbled that Governor Markell, Director Whaley, and the Council on Development Finance have entrusted to us some of the resources of the taxpayers of Delaware. We look forward to transforming those resources into tools, training, and technology in the hands of the innovators of Wilmington’s creative economy.”

“We are thrilled that NextFab has identified Wilmington’s Creative District as the right location for their expansion,” said Dr. Carrie W. Gray, WRC Managing Director. “NextFab’s makerspace will be the first of its kind in Wilmington and represents an integral next step for the Creative District. Not only will NextFab complement and enhance our existing tech, maker and entrepreneurial community, but it also represents a unique opportunity to create a key intersection between the arts and tech worlds that NextFab fosters so well.”

“We’re excited that NextFab chose to expand here in Delaware,” commented Delaware Economic Development Office Director Bernice Whaley. “In addition to creating jobs, NextFab will directly support our innovative entrepreneurs, as well bolster indirect job growth through its variety of services.”

 About NextFab
NextFab Studio, LLC d.b.a. NextFab, is a for-profit social enterprise focused on building diverse collaborative communities empowered by direct access to advanced manufacturing technology, and providing the training, consulting, and startup company incubation services required to turn ideas into products, and products into businesses.

About Creative District Wilmington
Wilmington’s Creative District is a part of a national wave of creative placemaking initiatives that seek to transform urban areas. This community revitalization project encompasses the area bounded by Fourth, Ninth, Market and Washington Streets and is driven by a strong collaboration from a variety of partners: Chris White Community Development Corporation, Christina Cultural Arts Center, City of Wilmington, Interfaith Community Housing of Delaware, Quaker Hill Neighborhood Association and Wilmington Renaissance Corporation. The Creative District is generously supported by Bank of America, Delaware Division of the Arts, Delaware State Housing Authority, Delmarva Power, JPMorgan Chase, Longwood Foundation, TD Bank Foundation, United Way of Delaware and WSFS Bank.

About Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC)
Founded in 1993, WRC is a privately funded, nonpartisan nonprofit organization. WRC’s mission is to invigorate downtown Wilmington through strategies and projects that stimulate the city’s economy and vitality, solidifying it as a center of educational, cultural and social activity and an exciting place to live, work and visit. Some of WRC’s groundbreaking projects include: establishment of the Downtown Wilmington Business Improvement District; rejuvenation of the LOMA neighborhood; creation of the innovative Delaware College of Art and Design; attraction of a world-class cycling competition; and the implementation of a highly successful four-year public art program. Currently, WRC’s core strategic initiative is facilitating the implementation of the vision for Wilmington’s Creative District (CD) as Wilmington’s creative center, focused on innovative production and consumption, where creative entrepreneurs – artists, musicians, designers and tech innovators – and neighborhood residents thrive and where locally designed goods and original works are made and consumed.

About the Delaware Economic Development Office
The Delaware Economic Development Office is an executive state agency responsible for attracting new investors and businesses to the state, promoting the expansion of existing industry, assisting small and minority-owned businesses, promoting and developing tourism and creating new and improved employment opportunities for all citizens of the State. Visit

WRC welcomed constituents from the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange

WRC welcomed constituents from the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange on Thursday, October 22nd. Managing Director Carrie Gray provided a tour of Downtown Wilmington and the Creative District. Rick Gessner from Capital One moderated a panel discussion on How Public Funds Can Be Leveraged for Sustainable Change with Dan Logan, Delaware Attorney General’s Office, Crime Strategies Unit, Hon. Anas Ben Addi, Director, Delaware State Housing Authority, Michael Purzycki of Riverfront Development Corporation and Lenny Sophrin, City of Wilmington Director of Planning & Development.