Norman Oliver has shifted from basketball and politics to entrepreneurship. His new development of housing for low-income buyers may seal his reputation as someone who just wants to do good.
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of the driveway of his Middletown home, points his gold 2010 Mercedes 350 north on Del. 1, and heads to his office at 1213 B St. in Wilmington’s troubled Southbridge neighborhood.
“The problem is,” he says, “no one ever picks up their phone at this time in the morning.”
When they do, the 49-year-old Oliver is ready. A Bluetooth seems permanently affixed to his ear, an iPad is usually in his hand, and he carries two cell phones.
Oliver needs all this technology to stay abreast of a diverse and burgeoning entrepreneurial domain that includes NOR Enterprises and Our Youth Inc., enterprises aimed at providing student and school support services mainly to hard-to-reach youth; his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway, now 27 years old; and “Community Crossfire,” his Sunday night TV show on Comcast Channel 28.
Oliver also fields calls and e-mails from politicians of both parties and from people who once participated in his Stormin’s Classic youth basketball league. Last but not least, there are six or seven calls daily to and from Margaret, his wife of 18 years. He won’t see her or their 16-year-old son, Norman Jr., until 7 or 8 at night.
Currently near the top of his many enterprises and projects is Rock Solid Contracting and Development and Zanthia Way, 13 town homes on the 900 block of Vandever Avenue, on the east side of Wilmington. Aimed at low-income buyers, the project is named after his mother, who died in 1988.
Built by Casale Construction, the 1,800-square-foot homes sell for $159,900. With subsidies made possible by the city of Wilmington and private funding, Oliver is able to offer buyers $5,000 in settlement help, as well as a flat-screen TV.
The settlement assistance is critical, says Tony Casale, president of Casale Construction. “It’s getting harder and harder to qualify for a mortgage today. I’ve seen loans denied an hour before settlement.”
Oliver and Casale are hoping their project will fill an affordable housing void in the city. Home ownership in Wilmington stands at 44 percent, compared to a national average of 60 percent. What’s more, 2,171 Wilmington residents were homeless in 2010, according to the Homeless Planning Council of Delaware.
Zanthia Way serves as a reminder of Oliver’s own brush with homelessness.
Page 2: Stormin' Through, continues...