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  #61  
Old Posted Jul 23, 2005, 4:08 PM
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Contractor Damages Historic Buildings

Site Being Readied for Downtown Wilmington Project

By ADAM TAYLOR / The News Journal
07/23/2005


WILMINGTON -- A demolition contractor working without the required permits on a $50 million downtown redevelopment project recently tore down parts of historic buildings that city preservation officials had ordered to remain intact.

The contractor, East Coast Minority Suppliers, was fired from the Renaissance Centre retail, office, residential and parking project in June. The firing stalled demolition work at the site for weeks.

Since then, the developers of the 1.14-acre block bounded by Fourth, Market, Fifth and King streets decided that what the contractor did by accident should be done on purpose. They have decided the historic facades of the buildings are too fragile and expensive to repair and want permission to tear them down, then replicate them.

That proposal, which will go before the Wilmington Design Review and Preservation Commission next month for approval, is not going over well with city officials.

"We expect that they go forward with the project as it was originally approved and designed, which includes the original historical facades remaining part of this project," city Communications Director John Rago said.

Robert Ruggio of The Commonwealth Group, the Wilmington-based developers for the project, wrote to the city last month to request permission to raze the entire block, rather than saving the original facades. Ruggio and Brock Vinton, another top Commonwealth Group official, could not be reached Friday.

Neither could Rock Brown, the owner of East Coast Minority Suppliers of Wilmington. City Licenses & Inspection Commissioner Jeffrey J. Starkey said Friday that inspectors shut down Brown's company in May because the company was working without demolition permits.

In addition, Brown's com-pany tore down some parts of the properties that were supposed to stay put, city Senior Planner Pat Maley said.

Maley said she had a conversation with Brown before he began work, and said that Brown was under the mistaken impression that he was supposed to raze the entire block. So she is glad that the code inspectors shut down the work, because she feared that even more historic buildings might have mistakenly been demolished.

Another demolition company owned by Brown ran into trouble three years ago while working for the Wilmington Housing Partnership, a city-run nonprofit agency working to revitalize city neighborhoods.

Workers from East Coast Shelly Construction severely damaged a house next door to a corner row house it demolished. The adjoining home was damaged because a joist that connected the two homes that should have been severed before the demolition began was left intact when the work began, partnership Executive Director Jerry Cain said at the time.

The family who lived in the damaged home was displaced because of the error.

The current project includes plans for a 325-space parking garage and a building with at least 140,000 square feet of office space, as well as residential and retail buildings. The project is expected to be completed by the spring of 2007.

"The early stages of this project have certainly been fraught with problems," Maley said.

Maley and Starkey said other contractors were removing asbestos from the roofs of some of the buildings in an improper manner. Neither city official could immediately identify the contractor involved, but said that instead of hosing down the tops of the buildings and using tarps and chutes, workers simply used sledgehammers atop the buildings, sending asbestos dust flying into the air.

Matt Volk, who is working on the project for the developers, could not be reached Friday.

Renaissance Centre LLC, a group led by Vinton, has paid $2 million of the $2.5 million purchase price for the block to the city and the Wilmington UDAG Corp., a city-run grant and loan agency.

---------------------

Hopefully this won't slow things down too much. As for leveling the block and rebuilding, as long as they do a reasonably good job at replicating the originals, who cares? Also, this stuff should have been picked up in the engineering report. Sounds like a half-assed job on Commonwealth's part.

I just hope they can save this one as an original.

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  #62  
Old Posted Jul 27, 2005, 3:54 AM
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Ehh MGlan.. Get over that building, bud

Besides the Coke ad, I don't see what you see in that building.
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  #63  
Old Posted Aug 5, 2005, 11:01 PM
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Wilmington seems to have the level of development of a much larger city, thats amazing.
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  #64  
Old Posted Aug 6, 2005, 4:22 PM
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^It's been pretty good lately. This is really the first burst of activity since MBNA started building their complex in 1995. The last round of construction like this was in the mid to late 1980's.

I'll start posting photos of the Juniper site next month maybe, whenever the foundation starts to go in. That site is really big. I didn't realize how large that building was going to be (unfortunately, large as in broad, not tall). That will really give some life to that area down there. (Take a look at the first page if you have no idea what the hell I'm talking about)

Thanks for dropping in Chicago103, it's good to see someone else chime in.
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  #65  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2005, 5:02 AM
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I was wondering... Two Christina Centre may have to go on the "on hold" list pending whatever happens with MBNA.

BoA has chopped up every other company it has taken over, so.. ya never know.

The Gateway Plaza is really coming along fine. Great to see it finally roped off and dirty and ready to sprout.
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  #66  
Old Posted Aug 10, 2005, 10:27 PM
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^I really don't think it'll be that bad. There're still going to need most of the functions they have now, just slightly reduced. The HR, legal, and most of advertising will go, and probably some of the accounting and finance departments, but I think some of those functions will remain together with the credit card division right here in Wilmington. I think a lot of the cuts will come from call centers and the overlap I mentioned above. I don't think it'll be a disaster for the Wilmington office market. In fact, they may end up consoldidating more jobs in the Wilmington office from other sites like Deerfield and Ogletown.

Two Christina is on the hold list now, until they get enough leasing to fill at least 45%-50% of the space. I don't know if the market is going to be able to absorb the space that is coming in the next year or two (Renaissance and WSFS Bank Center) to justify another 250,000-300,000 sq. ft. It would be an outstanding building (like all the ones BRT builds), but I'd put my money on a late 2007 start. Absorption is pretty good, but not that good. Too bad Aramark didn't take the offer the City made a few years ago, I'd be looking at that tower right now!

WSFS Bank Plaza is coming along. They have a fast construction schedule to deal with, so this one will go quickly. They need to have the top three floors finished by late 2006 for Morris, James, Hitchens & Williams, so they need the foundation poured and steelwork (?) started before the first freezing tempuratures.
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  #67  
Old Posted Aug 11, 2005, 10:25 PM
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FAST and CONSTRUCTION and SCHEDULE.. all in one sentence?

Not to ostracize the other ongoing projects, but it DID take a long time to rise Christina Landing 1. Waterfront Sq. in Philly eclipsed the building in half the time of Christina Landing.

I drove by the WSFS site today, and the Juniper site. The WSFS Building site is pretty girthy. I'm wondering if they'll have some sort of plaza on the other side, or if the building may just be that size.

After maneuvering around the traffic retards by the Juniper site, I have to agree with you. That site is HUGE. If Juniper meets the dimensions of that sole rendering, it looks to be about the height of the AAA. With nice illumination, this would nicely complement my beloved I-95 view.
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  #68  
Old Posted Aug 11, 2005, 11:08 PM
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^The WSFS building will have a large footprint. The rear will be all garage and loading dock/garbage space.

You said about Christina Landing. They're still pounding away for the second tower. It'll be a pleasant surprise to look out my window and not see that damn pile driver! Also, looking at the site yesterday, they've graded the area where the garage will go, but I assume they'll need to drive more piles for that!

I really wished Juniper would have gone with a taller building, but maybe they'll over-engineer the foundation to allow for a tower on one side in a few years. A teardrop shaped, 8-10 story tower on that building would look hot.

I'm curious to see what kind of illumination Renaissance Centre is going to have. Since it's masonry, I'm certain they'll have some kind of lighting. Probably uplights at the setback. Hey, they've cleared the site, too!
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  #69  
Old Posted Aug 19, 2005, 9:10 PM
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An article from today's News Journal gives an update to the area's progress and the long planned refurbishment of the Wilmington Train Station. Though there really isn't much substance, I thought I'd post it to give a good overview of what's going on and coming up.

I also took a page from NYguy and put the important info in bold.

Riverfront Proposal Comes to Life

With Renaissance Under Way, Attention Turns to City's Amtrak Station

BY MAUREEN MILFORD / The News Journal
08/19/2005


When the Rev. Patricia Bryant Harris moved back to Delaware in July, she had occasion to take a tour of the Christina River waterfront after a six-year absence.

"Ah, the extent of what's taken place -- the park, the apartments, the marketplace -- it's awesome. My favorite area is around the train station. It's just a great uplift for Wilmington," said Harris, new pastor of Marshallton United Methodist Church in Marshallton.

Not so long ago, the train station district was "very rugged," said Harris, who once regularly commuted by train.

Now, businesspeople and public officials think it's time for a total makeover of the 100-year-old Amtrak passenger station on French Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard. With nearly $1 billion in construction projects on the waterfront either completed, in progress or proposed in the past seven years, Wilmington needs a new front door, experts said.

"It's a cornerstone of the whole development," said Arkadi Kuhlmann, chief executive of ING Direct, the nation's fourth-largest savings bank, which has its headquarters on the waterfront. The bank spent $20 million to renovate three historic buildings, including two historic railroad buildings, there. "Our train station shouldn't look like a third-class bus stop."

Robert Buccini, a partner in Buccini/Pollin Group Inc., which has more than $300 million in real estate projects on the waterfront, said the station is the first impression visitors get of the city. The Wilmington station is the 13th-busiest in the Amtrak system. Approximately 90 trains serve Wilmington every day.

"It needs work. It's tired. The interior finishes need to be comparable to Philadelphia or Washington," Buccini said.

Now, said Sen. Tom Carper, "The sun, the moon and the stars are coming into alignment" for the train station.

With recent passage of the federal transportation bill, $6.5 million has been earmarked for station renovations, said John Sisson, manager of projects and facilities for the state Department of Transportation. But Delaware must match 20 percent of the federal monies, and DelDOT is experiencing a budget crisis.

There is enough money, however, for design work to begin, Sisson said. The architectural firm Bernardon Haber Holloway Architects, of Wilmington, has been hired by Amtrak for the renovation. A kick-off meeting is next week.

City and state historic preservation officials will be part of the process. The red-brick Victorian building was designed by the noted Philadelphia architect Frank Furness. Furness also designed the nearby Pennsylvania Building and the B&O Water Street Station on South Market Street, both now used by ING Direct.

The three Wilmington buildings represent the largest grouping of Furness railroad buildings in the nation and show the range of his railroad work, said Michael J. Lewis, an art history professor at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., and author of "Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind."

In 1905, at about the time the du Ponts were building the DuPont Co. headquarters in downtown Wilmington, the Pennsylvania Railroad was trying to capture the railroad business along the Northeast Corridor.

Although Furness also designed buildings for competing railroads, he was hired by Pennsylvania Railroad President A.J. Cassat to build a station in Wilmington on a limited budget.

Today, the station needs renovations of the exterior, work on the windows, and improvements in lighting, restrooms and handicapped access, Sisson said. If money from the state were to become available, work could begin in the spring, he said. The station last underwent a major renovation in the early 1980s.

In 2002, ING, Amtrak, and the state and federal governments proposed a major overhaul of the station that would include an atrium bridging the station with the Pennsylvania Building, now occupied by ING Direct and called the Orangerie. Under the proposal, the atrium would serve as the new entrance to the station. The work would free up more space for shops in station's existing waiting area.

"I want to make that a reality," Carper said. "The idea is to create office space in the unused portions of the station to be leased, hopefully by ING. That would provide a cash flow to Amtrak."

Meanwhile, across the river from the train station, work is progressing on the $130 million Christina Landing project. The residential complex includes two residen- tial towers and town houses.

One 22-story apartment tower, which is visible on leaving the station, will be open by late November, Buccini said. The 25-story condominium building adjacent to the tower is under construction and should be completed next year. The 63 town houses should be finished by the end of September. About half of the town houses -- all of which have been sold -- have gone to settlement.

Buccini/Pollin also is planning to start work at the end of the year on a $100 million development with a hotel, residences, offices and retail sites on 10.9 acres of publicly owned waterfront land. The property, off South Madison and West streets, has been used by the city's Department of Public Works and the state's Delaware Transit Corp. The hotel project would complement the Riverfront Development Corp.'s plan to remake the Center on the Riverfront into a conference center.

Work is also under way on the 250,000-square-foot expansion of Juniper Bank, a credit card bank, and parking lot at West and Justison streets. The $65 million project is expected to be completed in September 2006, said Greg Pettinaro, partner with Pettinaro Enterprises in Newport.

For environmental consultant Marian R. Young, the improvements on the waterfront nearly bring tears to her eyes.

"I feel such pride that I've been a part of this," said Young, president of BrightFields Inc. in New Castle. "It's a true renaissance."
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  #70  
Old Posted Aug 20, 2005, 3:49 AM
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It's a nice article, Mglan.

I am sort of ashamed I put that hotel deal into the back of my mind as if it wouldn't happen. I pretty much had forgotten about it.

I'll be interested to see what the plans for the hotel will turn out to be. I definitely don't want a residential AAA Mid-Atlantic building. All though I like it, this thing better not be boxy, blocky, and brown.
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  #71  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2005, 8:54 PM
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I wonder how many of these proposed projects will come to fruition? It'll be great to add some these new jazzy projects to the Wilmington skyline... I like the juniper & pelli projects best...
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  #72  
Old Posted Aug 22, 2005, 11:18 PM
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^The only project that isn't under construction (among the ones listed on the front page) is Two Christina Center. Brandywine Realty Trust, the developer for Two Christina Center, is very interested in building the project, but is waiting for the other projects going up to shake out. However, if they land a large tenant, they'll start much sooner.

The garage IS being built. Settlement on the properties is set for Sept. 12th, and construction will start the 13th (believe me, EDiS is anxious to get this project done!).

Juniper is having its piles driven.

Renaissance Centre has been quiet. I'm assuming they are still investigating whether or not they can knock down the rest of the existing buildings and rebuild replicas, or if they have to keep them. Either way, the site is cleared, and a few hollow piles have been driven.

WSFS Bank Center (previously known as Gateway Center) has its site cleared and piles being driven. This should be a quick build, with occupancy expected at the end of 2006.

The Amtrak station refurbishment and addition has been on the drawing boards for five years now. Sounds like they've gotten most of the pieces in place to get this started (design work at least).

The Buccini/Pollin project mentioned in the article above sounds like its ready to go. It's funny BPG never released their plans for it yet, though.

--Other plans that aren't so likely in the next few years are: a transportation hub for intercity busses and DART (an enclosed bus loading/unloading Port Authority type setup), and a redevelopment of the Fort Christina marina on the 7th Street peninsula.

The bus terminal would include a parking garage and possibly multiple office floors on top to house DART operations and administrative staff. This is in the very preliminary stages, and with the DelDOT budget shortfall, it made the list of deferred funding.

The Fort Christina marina was put out for a RFP (request for proposal) back in December or January. The city has reviewed the two proposals for it, but are mum on what those are or if they are feasible/desirable for the city. Who knows?

Things are looking up...literally.

For the pie in the sky stuff look here.
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  #73  
Old Posted Aug 23, 2005, 4:03 AM
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THANX FOR THE UPDATE.... GREAT NEWS, i WONDER HOW DIFFERENT THE SKYLINE WILL LOOK AS A WHOLE ONCE THESE PROJECTS GET COMPLETED
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  #74  
Old Posted Aug 24, 2005, 12:04 AM
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^No sweat. I've been meaning to do a general update for this thread. I prefer to do it as another post, as opposed to editing the first page, to give it a sense of a timeline (or something).

It's incredible that Wilmington will have THREE tower cranes looming in 2006. Too bad CBS canceled that show that used aerials of Wilmington for transition shots, I'd love to have a wide angle shot of three highrises under construction in downtown. Wow that sounds pathetic, but we take what we can get in this town.
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  #75  
Old Posted Aug 24, 2005, 12:19 AM
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Wow, Wilmington looks like such a nice, happening mid-size town.
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  #76  
Old Posted Aug 28, 2005, 11:43 PM
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Hey guys just a little heads up. This weeks Philadelphia Business Journal is all over New Castle County and Wilmington. They were very complimentary of Wilmington. Will be online Monday.
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  #77  
Old Posted Aug 28, 2005, 11:45 PM
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Any new updates on Two Christiana?
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  #78  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2005, 1:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Palms
Any new updates on Two Christiana?
From what I understand, Two Christina is preparing to prelease long term.

Motoring past the WSFS Gateway site, I noticed that there is now a nice large sign showing the building. The floors look ridiculously huge for the building to gape over the Sheraton as it is depicted on the sign.

The rendering looks ultra-modern. Almost too glassy.. but that's all I saw from the car. I had a cop in back of me, and couldn't slow down.

Get some pics, MGlan.
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  #79  
Old Posted Aug 29, 2005, 1:42 AM
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Thanks for the heads up Palms, I'll be sure to pick one up.

I'll have to get some photos of that this week or next weekend. I'll have to start a new thread over in the Highrises section, too. The building is really going to dominate that intersection, and it'll make a nice addition to the skyline coming south on I-95. Oh, and two things: the building is back up to 15 floors apparently, and WSFS will be putting their letters on the building (too bad they won't be in neon like PSFS in center city).

As for Two Christina Centre, I still think that Brandywine Realty Trust is going to wait until very late in 2006 at the earliest. The Renaissance Center is having a slower lease up than originally projected, but that could be for any number of reasons.
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  #80  
Old Posted Aug 30, 2005, 9:26 PM
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Just to expand on what I said earlier, this level of condo development for a city of less than 100,000 is quite impressive. Most downtowns of american cities this size are neglected completly and dont have much hope of being revitalized on the residential level. I have looked at several city photo threads of Wilmington and I must say it is one of the best smaller cities I have seen in terms of urbanity and a big city feel.
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