Guest commentary: I-95 cap uses green space to reconnect neighborhoods

A draft of the preferred concept for the I-95 cap, designed after community input.
A draft of the preferred concept for the I-95 cap, designed after community input.
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Dave Gula is a member of the Wilmington Area Planning Council (WILMAPCO).

Wilmington has joined a growing number of cities that are exploring ways to reconnect neighborhoods and providing new public spaces by creating caps over urban highways. These structures are being used to create green spaces, plazas and cultural amenities that can also reconnect separated neighborhoods by allowing residents to walk and bike more safely and comfortably.

The I-95 Cap Feasibility Study began in September 2021 with the first Advisory Committee meeting at the Trinity Episcopal Parish on Adams Street. The meeting included a walking tour of the study area, which stretches from Delaware Avenue to Sixth Street, between Adams and Jackson streets. This was the first opportunity for the project team (the Department of Transportation, the Delaware Transit Corp., the city of Wilmington, the Wilmington Area Planning Council, Hargreaves Jones and Johnson, Mirmiran & Thompson) to meet with community leaders and residents to discuss the challenges and opportunities in the area.

WILMAPCO followed up this meeting with a virtual Advisory Committee meeting on Nov. 2 to include residents who were unable to attend or were more comfortable meeting online. Input from the meetings was used as the basis to develop a vision for the project and to help our team prepare for the upcoming community visioning workshop, held in person on Nov. 17 and online on Jan. 12, 2022. The project team took the comments from the visioning process and developed some initial ideas for the cap. A second Advisory Committee meeting was held on March 8 to bring these ideas back to the community for comment and review, and to inform a third public workshop, which was held on April 19 at the William C. Lewis Dual Language Elementary School. Workshop attendees scrutinized the initial design ideas and added their own. These ideas were incorporated into three revised concepts based on the residents’ preferred layout for the potential park space.

The Advisory Committee then came back together at Lewis Elementary School on Sept. 6 to review the concepts. That meeting was immediately followed by another public workshop, again allowing community members to provide input. This input gave the project team the direction needed to craft a final alternative. A final Advisory Committee meeting was held virtually on Nov. 15, where the group voiced its support. A public workshop was held on Nov. 17 at Ursuline Academy to allow for review of the final draft design concept and traffic analysis for the study. During this workshop, the project team gathered many comments, which demonstrated support for the proposed concept and answered many questions.

A key task of the feasibility study has been to gather resident input, which is why the workshops have been held at venues within the community. The Wilmington Area Planning Council was grateful for its collaboration with the United Neighbors and other community groups that allowed us to connect with more residents. Through this collaboration, the project team participated in several community events and meetings over the last year, extending the outreach for the study.

A draft of the preferred concept design, along with a recording of the final public workshop, is currently available on the project website for review and comment through Jan. 12, 2023. To learn more, please visit wilmapco.org/i95cap.

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