Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Wilmington Diary: A Concentrated Experience

One virtue of small older cities, it appears, is that you can take in their entire breadth and depth in a short time. At least that's the impression I get from walking around Wilmington at lunch hour.

In the span of about an hour and 15 minutes, I can walk from the center of downtown into one of the city's middle-class precincts, through a smallish entertainment district, over to Automobile Row and back into the downtown. Or I can head into Little Italy and then back via the barrio. And if I walk in the opposite direction from my office, I'm in the floodplain, home to factories and acres of housing projects.

One of the striking things about this small (just shy of 75,000 inhabitants) city is that it seems to have the full complement of big-city issues. The municipal budget is in the red, and the state is trying to come up with fixes, including expanded annexation powers for the city. Violent crime is a worry in some neighborhoods. And while there is no sign of the wholesale abandonment that hit Camden, a city of similar size, full force, it is clear that some older neighborhoods are in need of fixing up. And, of course, there is that dead-after-5 downtown.

Smaller may be more manageable, but it is not necessarily more beautiful.

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