20 years of working together

Dear Friends,

Twenty years ago, when I was serving as Delaware’s governor, former Governor Russ Peterson and along the Christina River into something beautiful for the people of Wilmington. They called it the “Vision for the Rivers,” and today we know it as the Wilmington Riverfront.former UD President Art Trabant came to me with a plan to turn the abandoned industrial wasteland 

I didn’t say this to Russ and Art when they came into my office that day, but they had me at “hello.” I only had one question for them: Who was going to do this? They replied, “You are Tom, because you’re governor and that’s what governors do.”“

No,” I said. “We’re going to do this together.”

Less than a year later, I brought former Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer down to the future site of the Riverfront along the Christina River. When he was the mayor of Baltimore, Governor Schaefer had taken the Inner Harbor project from a vision to a reality, and 

helped to make the Inner Harbor the beautiful jewel of Baltimore that it is today. Together at the site, we stood in the wasteland — barely

 able to recognize that the Christina River was there. I asked Governor Schaefer if we were embarking on a fool’s errand. “This could work,” was his response. 

When the Riverfront project began, we all knew it would be a years-long challenge and that it would take everyone coming together, not just elected officials, but business and community leaders too. We put together a group of extraordinarily dedicated and talented people, like Mike Purzycki and Mike Hare, to act as stewards of the project and bring together government resources and private sector investments.

In the State House, Senator Patty Blevins and Representative Roger Roy, as Co-Chairs of the Joint Committee on Capital Improvement, also known as the Bond Bill Committee, were instrumental in ensuring that we had the funding needed to start this project.

Originally, we only had Frawley Stadium and our hometown minor league baseball team, the Blue Rocks. But steadily the Chase Center was added, then shops and restaurants, and a walking path to the new Nature Preserve at the Peterson Wildlife Refuge. In recent years, we’ve welcomed the Delaware Children’s Museum, where kids of all ages learn through playing and exploring, and we’ve seen the opening of the 15-theater IMAX. Two years ago,we cut the ribbon on a new hotel next door – the Westin Wilmington.

Over the years, we’ve watched as the Riverfront Development Corporation, led by Mike Purzycki, Megan McGlinchey and Peggy Strine, has steadily built up the area and created the vibrant atmosphere that exists today. And they aren’t done yet. Later this year, we will hold a groundbreaking for the Christina River Bridge, a gateway into the Riverfront.

I’m so incredibly proud of how the Wilmington community and Delaware came together, embodied the Delaware Way, and transformed an industrial wasteland into a self-supporting cultural and economic center that benefits all residents of the City of Wilmington, the State of Delaware, and the visitors to our state. 

But most of all, I’m excited for the future, to see what else Wilmington and all Delawareans can do in the next 20 years, together.