8 Reasons Why Wilmington, Delaware is Considered the “Phoenix of the Northeast”
When the Lenape Indians first settled what is now Wilmington, DE, the city’s future status as a haven for mega corporations was far off in the distant future. Henry Hudson was about to sail up what is now the Delaware River and the riverfront banks that currently house the headquarters of some of the world’s biggest companies were grassy and rife with riparian waterfowl.
Flash forward more than four centuries and Wilmington is being settled again, only this time those arriving are drawn here for very different reasons than Sachem (Chief) Mattahorn and his band of Lenapes.
What’s drawing these new urban settlers to Wilmington? What do they see in this small city perched on the banks of the Christina and Delaware Rivers? Here’s a guide to this riverside city that’s drawing attention from movers, shakers, Boomers, and more, as they discover what the area has to offer.
If you count yourself among those planning a move and you’ve always dreamed of living near the water, Wilmington might just be the ideal location for you.
Here are eight good reasons why Wilmington should be on your radar if you’re looking for a new city to call home.
1. Wilmington is Close to Everything
It’s easy to say a city is near everything when you’re in the Northeast but for Wilmington it’s actually very true. Head north just 33 miles and you’re in Philly. 100-odd miles southwest and you’re in DC. A fan of high-speed trains? The Acela, Amtrak’s highly-touted “bullet” train whizzes through, making a stop in Delaware. Hop on and in under 2 hours you can be within walking distance to the United States Capitol, the National Mall, or the National Museum, should you be so inclined!
Two hours north on the New Jersey Turnpike will put you within spitting distance of the NYC Metropolitan Area. 90 miles choose a quieter route toward the southeast and you’re in Cape May, New Jersey in about two hours – can you say, “best day trip ever”?
2. There’s Water, Water, Everywhere
The city of Delaware is more than one-third water – thanks to Wikipedia for that fun fact – which means, essentially, that it’s entirely possible to enjoy a “coastal” lifestyle. The city itself sits on the mighty Delaware River, which spills into Delaware Bay which, of course, opens up to become the Atlantic Ocean. In addition, there’s the Christina River, which is no minor tributary itself. Then there’s Brandywine Creek, which has a rich, fascinating history attached to it.
For people who like to spend lots of time outdoors communing with nature and wildlife, a hour’s drive down the coast of the Delaware River yields a satisfying reward: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Over 64 square coastal miles of preserved land with a 12-mile auto route and plenty of walking trails, it’s a good place to unwind, get in a good, long weekend walk, or take friends and family when they visit you in your new city. In addition to deer, mice, foxes, squirrels, lizards and more than 350 species of birds, people have been known to spot river otters and even the occasional harbor seal here. In fact, Delaware Bay is a major staging area for birds preparing to migrate each year – the second largest in the country .
3. It’s a Great Place to Start a Second Career
Cornell University conducted a study revealing what many already know: lots of retiring Boomers are planning a second career. The study put the number at around one-third of the retirement-age population, which represents around 26 million people in their 60s right now who are planning to enter the workforce again after retiring from their main careers.
Although not every second career involves starting your own business, many do and that’s where it’s nice to be located in Delaware. Wilmington is the unofficial national capitol of corporate headquarters for the financial industry. Almost half of all publicly-traded companies are incorporated in Delaware because of the state’s uniquely corporate-friendly tax laws. Wilmington, as the largest city in Delaware, is where it all takes place. In the early 1980s, the city was facing an economic crises so severe it took nothing short of a bold, drastic plan to turn things around. That plan was to create a body of corporate and tax law so favorable that it would attract Fortune 500 companies and boost the local economy in Wilmington.
Well, it worked and today, more than two-thirds of the Fortune 500 are incorporated in Delaware, most in Wilmington . Overall, there are more than one million businesses incorporated here. You don’t have to physically locate your business in the state of Delaware but if you do, you enjoy even more benefits like more tax advantages and savings and less paperwork. You’ll only have to file one annual report if you’re actually located in Delaware, you won’t have to pay for a registered agent, you’ll only have to pay for the cost of registering to do business in one state if you live here, and more.
4. It’s the #1 Tax-Friendly State in the Country
Living in Wilmington isn’t only good for business – it’s good for your personal finances as well. State income taxes are friendly for retirees, with a whopping $12,500 tax exclusion on retirement income. There’s also no sales tax so shopping is even more fun. And for those over the age of 65, there is an additional standard deduction on income taxes, just for seniors. And one more thing: those road trips you plan on taking will cost you less, too: the gas tax here is lower than the national average.
5. You’re More Likely to Maintain Your Standard of Living
The New York Times reported that as many as 30 million Boomers have been downsized out of their jobs – and that was several years ago. And whether it’s premature retirement or lack of savings, more than a few retirees are facing the possibility of a lower standard of living in their Golden Years. Downsizing is a popular solution that, combined with finding a new home in a city where property doesn’t have skyrocketing prices is one way to maintain the standard of living that you’re accustomed to.
Property in and around Wilmington is refreshingly reasonably-priced. With a diverse range of styles and sizes, it’s entirely possible that the city has exactly what you’d be looking for in a new home. There are cute-as-a-button Cape Cod styles built in the 1930s that have already been lovingly restored and retain original crown molding, hardwood floors and solid oak staircases that bring warmth and charm to the home. There are brand-new homes built with the highest standard of modern living incorporated into them. There are new townhouse developments with cathedral ceilings and open-concept main floors to facilitate entertaining and socializing. Some begin in the $126 per square foot range, with plenty of room to
6. Culture and the Arts Worthy of any Large City
The Grand Opera House, built in 1871 is a visual reminder of Wilmington’s rich arts and culture scene that began more than a century and a half ago. Recognized as one of the world’s most important remaining examples of the Second Empire style of architecture with its cast iron façade, it now houses a beehive of artistic events and activities. The Delaware Symphony Orchestra is housed here, as are Opera Delaware and the First State Ballet.
Frank Lloyd Wright was a fan of Wilmington, too. His Dudley Spencer House is located in the northeast part of the city, between Rockwood Park and Bellevue State Park just off I-95 and up the road from the popular Brandywine Hills neighborhood.
Just a few years ago, the Delaware History Museum on N. Market Street reopened after a much-anticipated renovation. The annual calendar of events offers exciting special exhibits and regular events plus membership perks that locals will find useful and entertaining all year ‘round. The Jane and Littleton Mitchell Center for African American Heritage is also headquartered here and seeks to preserve important documents and present research on the heritage and history of Delaware’s African Americans.
Locals can also become volunteers in the Mitchell Center, the Museum, the Research Library, or Read House & Gardens. It’s a fun and rewarding way to give back, meet people, and be part of an exciting community. Volunteers can also work on long-term projects and be part of behind-the-scenes activities that keep the museums going. But you’ll want to live in Wilmington to make it convenient for you!
There are, in fact, so many museums in Wilmington that there’s actually a list of the “Top Ten Museums in Wilmington”. Count among them “Winterthur”, a top tourist destination Winterthur is a spectacular historic estate and more recently, a world-class museum.
And don’t forget the Wine and Ale Trail begins in Wilmington and runs down the coastline. Other cultural highlights to look forward to are St. Anthony’s Italian Festival in Wilmington, one of the biggest festivals of this type on the east coast. And speaking of the biggest and the best, there’s the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, the largest one on the entire east coast that you don’t have to pay a cent for.
7. It’s Easy to Stay Active and Fit
Wilmington is an old city, which means it has a river (or two, or three!) running through it. The city has had the forethought to keep its riverside parks and walkways preserved for everyone to use. The Tubman-Garret Riverfront Park, for example, is across the street from the Amtrak station and walking along its 1.3-mile pathways will be different and enjoyable every day and in every season.
Then there are other riverside parks with pathways and views, not to mention more than a dozen other city parks worthy of your morning power walk or your evening stroll. Fort Christina Park, Christina Park, and of course the jewel in the crown: Brandywine Park, which spans both sides of Brandywine Creek and incorporates Brandywine Zoo. Finally, there’s Bellevue State Park, which is in the NE part of the city. What other major city boasts a State Park inside city limits?
8. The Potential for Growth is Electrifying
When you see all that Wilmington has going for it already – it’ s easy to see why lots of planning professionals, realtors, and entrepreneurs see immense potential for growth in this underrated small City. If you ask people who haven’t been to Wilmington for a very long time, you’ll see that Wilmington still suffers from a bit of an image problem. But they’re remembering a time when lots of American cities had the same problem. In the past, most American cities experienced problems with urban neglect that lingered longer than it should have. But in Wilmington that was just twenty years ago, not 40 years ago so it’ still relatively fresh in people’s minds. While other cities were enjoying a downturn in crime statistics in the early 2000s, Wilmington was struggling. Again that was more than two decades ago and things have changed.
Now, the city has lowered crime rates to levels lower than they have been in over fifteen years . Now, there’s a revitalized Riverfront shipyard area. Now, there’s a walkable environment for tens of thousands of workers in the center of the city. Now, there’s a promising startup culture. And now, instead of crime stats, people have vision and they’re seeing potential for growth. As a result, it’s easy to see where the seedlings of future growth have been planted.
Wilmington is rising from what many consider to be a rough patch for the city’s reputation, a time when the city’s many strengths were overshadowed by some unfortunate issues. Thankfully, those issues were only temporary and Wilmington is fast gaining traction once again as a premier destination for Millennials, Boomers, and anyone else who happens to be looking for a coastal city where the living is fine and prices are good. If you’d like to find out more about why Wilmington is the Phoenix of the Northeast, contact Michael today.