Developer proposes housing that's affordable in downtown Wilmington

Developer proposes housing that's affordable in downtown Wilmington

Housing in its most simple terms is the goal of a proposed apartment building on the corner of Wooster and South Fifth Avenue in downtown Wilmington.

According to Dave Spetrino, president and CEO of Plantation Building Corporation, his group wants to provide people a space to live where they don't have to worry about cost.

"I need shelter. It needs to be something that allows me to relax and decompress and focus on the things that are most important to me, and not become a distraction or a burden," Spetrino said. "The waterfront is doing phenomenally well. The restaurants, the shops are great, but our residents, they are the ones who are service workers in those restaurants and shops and they can't pay for or afford some of those more luxurious apartments."

Spetrino's plan is to build The Pearl apartment building, hopefully beginning in the Spring 2018. According to Spetrino, PBW Development has not yet submitted plans for The Pearl to the city.

He said there was a technical review and discussion about the project last Thursday.

The city has been a big supporter of the proposal, according to Spetrino.

WECT reached out to the city about the project and are waiting to hear back.

If everything goes according to plans, The Pearl will sit next to The Jewel, an apartment building PBW Development built in 2014. Spetrino said The Pearl plan includes a three-story building with 38 units that are all one-bedroom studios.

There will be a one-level parking garage in the basement of the building with 31 spots. The garage will also have 40 spots for bikes.

For now, rent is expected to stay between $700 and $800 per month, according to Spetrino.

"In order to negate those trendy or hot buttons (amenities) like a neighborhood fire pit just wasn't what we were going after," Spetrino said. "Our focus was to keep rents in a place that most people could afford and we wanted that rent to include washer, dryer, cable, Wi-Fi, all their necessary utilities."

With rent at that price, Jane Dempsey, who lives across the street from the site, said Spetrino will have no problem with people reserving units.

"He'll have a line of people waiting to get in," she said.

Dempsey has lived on Fifth Avenue for almost two years, and said there's a need for affordable housing in her neighborhood.

"I think we either have places that are falling down around us. There's a couple down the street from me, or we've got brand new homes that are coming in at $500,000," she said.

Spetrino hopes the proposed project will add to the area while helping the neighborhood keep its character.

"Dawson Street and Wooster Street are some of the most hideous streets in our community," Spetrino said. "We as a community have not done right by these two streets. They were part of an original grid pattern and they have now become basically one-way dragways."

"All development projects should have three specific functions. They should certainly add value to the existing streetscape. We believe we've got that covered. They should be able to increase the tax base of what is otherwise an underdeveloped area. We believe we've got that covered. The bottom line comes down to will this be profitable and if that is the case, then we will move forward."

Dempsey said she hopes the apartment building helps revitalize the area as well. She said she loves her neighborhood, but it has a bad reputation.

"When I meet somebody new, and they ask me, 'Well, where do you live?' and I just leave it at downtown," Dempsey said. "Then I try to leave it at downtown near the Castle art district, and then when they really push me, I say between Wooster and Castle and they kind of turn their noses up."

Spetrino wants to end that reputation.

"Most neighborhoods are most fascinating when there's vibrancy, when there's activity and when there's a real identity," he said. "The design of The Pearl really starts to take that to the forefront and the focus is to create ways to think of this really as one step in a much larger puzzle to create a wonderful neighborhood."

WECT talked to other residents who said the area needs more affordable housing. Spetrino said he hopes to submit plans to the city at the beginning of 2018, start developing in the spring of 2018 and open the apartment building in the spring of 2019.

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