West End Neighborhood House

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First-time homebuyer’s dream leads her to Cornerstone West’s Pavilion townhomes

Homefinder – The News Journal

By Carol Kipp

The road to first-time homeownership is not always an easy one to follow. Just ask Zakiyyah Moore. The 32-year-old residential staff counselor at Elwyn Institute had been trying to buy a house for almost five years before she realized her dream. And it never would have happened, she says, without help and guidance from the West End Neighborhood House and Cornerstone West.

Moore is the first buyer to acquire a home in the Pavilion, a brand-new community of 10 affordable townhomes on the corner of 5th and DuPont Streets in Wilmington. She expects to move in next month.

The architect-designed homes are distinctive for their solid-brick construction and attractive architectural elements, details that reflect the historic neighborhood vernacular. The homes also feature off-street parking, central air-conditioning, and energy efficient windows, doors and appliances — plus extra insulation and a full-size washer and dryer. The location of the new community, in the backyard of St. Francis Hospital, is within walking distance of Little Italy’s shops, restaurants and nightlife. It is also close to public transportation and offers easy access to I-95.

“This is a true quality-of-life neighborhood,” says Joan Fultz, director of Cornerstone West. “It offers walkability to many locations, in addition to new construction within an established community.” That established community is a vibrant one, home to the Italian Festival and A Taste of Italy, and right next door to the

Greek Festival, three of Wilmington’s most popular annual events. Community pride and a very active neighborhood association characterize the area as well.

Unlike purchasing a market-rate home, buying a Pavilion townhome offers a savings of more than $4,000 in settlement costs. And the home can be purchased for a down payment as low as $1,000. With interest rates so low that they now qualify for the Guinness Book of World Records, there couldn’t be a better time to buy.

Moore had her eye on Cornerstone West and its new-construction projects from the beginning.

As a Wilmington-based community development corporation, this non-profit agency has an 11-year-long track record of revitalizing city neighborhoods, either through renovation of existing properties or new construction. It is a collaborative effort between St. Francis Hospital and West End Neighborhood House, Inc. that serves as a proactive catalyst for positive change. By increasing the rate of homeownership for low- and moderate-income families and by providing low-interest loans/grants to community residents for home improvement, Cornerstone West also has had a significant impact on property values.

As far as Moore was concerned, Cornerstone West was providing the best new-construction value in the city. Before she could achieve her goal, however, she had to clear her debts and pull up her credit rating. Two years ago, in order to save money, she even moved back in with her parents after 13 years on her own.

“We’ve tried to take the pressure off her by being her support group,” says Moore’s father, Rev. Daniel Thomas, during a tour of the just-completed townhome. “It was a struggle [to become a homeowner]; she didn’t just walk into this place.”

Part of the struggle was to become an educated buyer. Moore signed up for the First-time Homebuyer Program sponsored by Neighborhood House, one of the pre-requisites for qualifying for the special financing that would make a mortgage affordable. Qualified buyers can purchase a three-bedroom, 1.5-bath Pavilion townhome for monthly payments as low as $975.

The Pavilion townhomes have been in the planning and development stage for years, Fultz adds, time enough to research the history of the site and learn that a garden pavilion stood at 5th and DuPont about 200 years ago. Hence the origin of the name.

For Moore, the timing was perfect. Debt free and ready to take on a mortgage, she feels well prepared and more than ready. “I wanted a brand-new house because I wanted to be the first one to live here,” she says, “and when I walk in the door for the first time as the owner, I will probably cry.”