WILMINGTON – What was once a furniture store in the Lower Market neighborhood of the city will become the Buccini/Pollin Group’s newest apartment complex in early 2021.
Company officials, joined by Mayor Mike Purzycki and City Council President Hanifa Shabazz, broke ground Wednesday, Dec. 11, on The Cooper, a 92-unit complex located at 210 N. Market St., between the 218 Grille restaurant and Al’s Sporting Goods.
The project consisting of 92 studio, one- or two-bedroom apartments is expected be completed in about 15 to 16 months, said Rob Buccini, BPG co-president.
The Cooper is named after the former Cooper Furniture store that once stood at the site, of which the historic façade dating back to 1874 will be saved in the new development, said Michael Hare, BPG executive vice president for development.
“It’s important to save it as a signal what was here and to celebrate what will follow,” Hare said.
BPG has invested about $1.44 billion in development in the city over the past decade, including more than 2,500 residential units, commercial projects and a hotel, but it hasn’t slowed their desire to continue investing, Buccini told Delaware Business Times.
“The fact that our offices are here in the city is a big deal; we drive around the city every day, we live here, we work here, we eat here,” he said. “What allows us to keep doing projects here is the financial viability of them. The projects that we’ve done over the past decade are hitting stride now.”
Buccini said that his company is thankful for the support of the mayor and city council president. Efforts to repave city streets and invest millions in a facelift of Rodney Square show a partnership between public and private in trying to boost Wilmington’s reputation in the market, he added.
“I’d also have to say that the City of Wilmington has as friendly a process for business development as you can,” he said. “Certainly more so than in Maryland, New Jersey or New York.”
In remarks prior to groundbreaking, Purzycki said that a project like The Cooper was not something he always saw as possible.
“I remember thinking decades ago when Wilmington 2000 took a shuttle down here and frankly saw something I didn’t see,” Purzycki said. “Everything that happened down here kind of sat forlorn for 10 years or more because there was no critical mass.”
Purzycki recalled how, during his time as executive director of the Riverfront Development Corp., he had to wait for a project to bring that needed critical mass to the Riverfront, which drew attention and interest in its offerings. He thinks the same is coming to Lower Market.
“(The Cooper) is going to completely transform this end of Market Street,” he said. “It’s bound to be a success.”
Buccini said that getting to a proven market, where amenities are plentiful and housing desirable, was an uphill climb.
“It’s been amazing to see all of the transformation start to create a momentum that we haven’t really seen in my lifetime,” he said.
With more than 2,500 residential units in the city, housing about 4,000 residents at a 94% occupancy rate, Buccini said that he believes BPG can still hit its goal of 5,000 residents by 2020. He said BPG believes market demand can support building 250 to 400 units a year in the city for the foreseeable future.
“When we were at 1,000 it was much harder, because there was no one on the streets. Now that we’re at 4,000 it gets easier,” he said, noting that BPG will be announcing multiple new projects in the first quarter of 2020.
By Jacob Owens