|Located just 30 miles south of Philadelphia on I-95, Delware’s largest city has become a hot spot for area millennials.
Wilmington’s downtown district, formerly known for its pawnshops, check-cashing stores, and abandoned buildings is being reinvigorated by developers who are constructing hundreds of apartments geared towards young professionals seeking the perks of center-city living, including car-free commutes and easy access to public transit.
Buildings that were once vacant or underused for many years are being demolished or completely renovated in order to meet the growing demand. As a result, city officials say there has been a sharp increase in the number of available residential units in center city.
Developers are racing to erect some 380 apartments in the Market Street area, known as city’s main commercial strip. The apartments are scheduled to be completed in two phases, between June 2015 and August 2016. The series of projects related to the construction of these units represents a total investment of $91 million.
The new apartments are designed to appeal to millennials — those born beginning in the early 1980s — who have inspired a nationwide trend and increased demand for transit-orientated development in metropolitan areas across the country, such as Wilmington.
“People want to live, work and play in the same community, and developers are responding to that,” said Michael J. Hare, a senior vice president at the Buccini/Pollin Group, developer of the downtown projects. “We believe the time is right for urban living.”
A number of buildings are in the process of being converted, including 627 North Market, a former department store building was most recently used by Delaware State University but has not been occupied since 2011.
The 47,000-square-foot building will undergo reconstruction of three floors with the addition of a fourth. In June 2015, the building will boast 40 one-bedroom apartments, three studios, and three two-bedroom units with average rental rates of $1.70 per square foot.
In order to meet, if not exceed demographic demands, all new housing units will be for rent only, and are within walking distance of public transit and area attractions. In recent years, the downtown area has experienced a surge in bars, restaurants and entertainment venues.
Millennials are happy with how downtown Wilmington is changing.
“Just in three short years, the night life has definitely increased,” said Mackenzie Wrobel, a 26-year-old law clerk who works at the Superior Court of Delaware in downtown Wilmington. “They are making more of an effort to keep things open later.”
Patrick Goldring, a 25-year-old IT consultant who lives downtown but commutes to work in the Philadelphia suburbs, agrees. “I think they are trying to make it like New York City where you get off work, go to happy hour, get drunk, walk to your apartment and not have to worry about trekking all over town,” he said.