Hilltop- Wilmington’s Little Italy

Hilltop contains several subdistricts including the more posh Cold Springs district with larger homes from the late 1800s,  West Hill centered around Titlton Park, a district of more modest and dense late 19th century rowhouse, and the Little Italy District anchored by the Lincoln Avenue commercial district and St. Anthony’s Church.

Hilltop’s urban strengths include its proximity to Downtown (only 1.5 mile away), attractive late 19th century architecture, dense form, economic and racial diversity, mix of housing types and prices, and convenience of many small/medium parks. It is a very comfortable but quiet district. The main areas for the district to improve upon is more retail and cultural amenities, urban business districts (Lincoln, 4th St, and Pennsylvania Ave) with better form and sense of place, and better bike infrastructure. The district should also consider building more dedicated affordable housing to prevent displacement should the district continue to revitalize.

Click here to see more Hilltop photos in my Flickr Album

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* Very convenient access to downtown with good public transit options. Street grid is highly connective and conducive to pedestrian activity.
* Mix of modest and larger more ornate rowhouses.
* Nice mix of housing prices. Larger/renovated homes generally sell between 300K-500K. Larger mansions around Cool Spring Park Sell for more. Modest but well kept homes sell in the 200Ks. Plenty of smaller not well kept rowhouses selling between 60K-150K especially near Lancaster road. Rentals are generally affordable but a pretty limited.1-bedrooms lease for around $1,000.
* Great racial and economic diversity. * Nice array of small and medium sized parks spread throughout the district with quality amenities. Other parks are walkable in adjacent districts including the extensive Brandywine Park.
* Mix of decent and high quality historic architecture. Best architecture is in the eastern half of the district.
* Tree cover best also in the eastern half of the district, which is generally the more wealthier half of the neighborhood.
* Cultural amenities include a very diverse array of restaurants, several cafes and bars, the Delaware Children’s Theatre, a Library, Post Office, and the Brandywine Zoo is located in an adjacent district.
* The Saint Francis Hospital is centrally located in Hilltop and a very good array of churches.
* Good number of Christine and Catholic schools in and around Hilltop K-12. Very limited public schools but there is a high performing Charter School to the SW of the district.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* One dedicated north-south bike lane. Not dedicated bike stations.
* Good but not great ADA infrastructure as intersections on residential streets are hit or miss with consistant curb cuts.
* Very low generational diversity as family households is around 20%..
* No museums, theaters, or art galleries in the district. Fortunately downtown is only a 1.5 away and offers many of these amenities.
* Retail amenities are a bit underwhelming. They include many Hispanic grocerias (Achme Supermarket located in adjacent 40 acres), several drug stores, a library and post office, handful of boutiques, gift stores, dollar stores, plenty of convenience stores, and a handful of banks.
* Buzz of the district depends on where you live in Hilltop. The eastern edge and Cold Spring portions of the neighborhood seem very in demand but other parts not so much.
* Not much modern architecture in the district and what does exist is more auto centric commercial uses.
* Urban massing along Union St is decent but uninspiring. 4th Street is more residential with some commercial and has acceptable urban massing. The western half Pennsylvania Street is most auto centric commercial uses.
* Even in the early 2010s the district had some pretty high crime. This seems to have drastically improved by 2020.

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