A historic, cast-iron façade of the old Cooper’s Home Furniture store at 212 North Market Street Wilmington served as the centerpiece of a groundbreaking today for what soon will be a contemporary 92-unit apartment building.
Located between 2nd and 3rd Streets next to Al’s Sporting Goods, the aptly named ‘The Cooper’ will stretch the entire block between North Market and King Streets and will integrate two separate glass-filled residential buildings on either side of the long-empty Cooper building.
Architects and builders Buccini/Pollin Group (BPG) made preservation of the Cooper, constructed in 1874, a focal point of the design. An open courtyard with direct sunlight will be nestled beyond the building’s face connecting the two structures at ground level and enhancing the outdoor appeal of the space. An additional glass walkway will also link the buildings on the Market Street side.
The Cooper’s location on Lower Market Street puts it within walking distance to the train station, Riverfront, and downtown, something BPG hopes will be attractive to people who may currently commute to Wilmington.
BPG purchased the former Al’s Sporting Goods property at 210 N. Market (which had been vacant since the company moved to its larger space down the street in 2008) and the adjoining lot at 208 N. Market and the property at 214 N. Market Street, which had been vacant for 10 years, from the city a few years ago to make way for the new complex.
“We’re saving this great historic façade that was built by Royer Bros. in 1874, the same company that built the façade on the Grand Opera House, this iron front. And it’s important to save it as a signal of what was here and as we celebrate what will follow,” said BPG’s Mike Hare.
Slated for completion in the first quarter of 2021, The Cooper does not have published rates yet but will offer market-rate housing for one and two-bedroom and studio units. Rates for units at BPG’s Mid-Town Park, with larger studio, one and two-bedroom apartments, ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 per month. BPG says Mid-Town Park is 92% occupied and they are hoping for the same success at their newest residential downtown venture.
Ebon Flagg, who owns Babe Styling Studio and Dudes Barbershop across the street says the new apartment building will be a game-changer. “Calling this a positive sign is an understatement about what we’ve been waiting for from the 400-block of Market Street and below. To be able to have our businesses in a highly residential area is a huge benefit to the business owners the employees and the families of both. I’ve been in business for 10 years, and some of it was a struggle. But to know that will have a potential hundred more residents minimally right across the street is wonderful,” he said.
Small business owner Eunice LaFate, who owns the Eunice LaFate Gallery directly across the street at 227 N Market Street, said she could not be more pleased additional foot traffic will be coming to her block. “This development is all so positive. I opened my business in 2015, and I am delighted to anticipate the patronage of art when the new apartments open,” she said.
On the King Street side of The Cooper complex, BPG purchased Bill’s Meat Market, who, according to BPG “was looking to sell and retire” and the old YWCA property, which had been vacant for close to a decade.
An income tax office, Eat Clean Juice Bar, LOMA Coffee Shop, Studio on Market (a hub and gallery space for photographers and artists), and tattoo studio also sit across the street from the new apartment complex.
That entire block across the street — The Lofts & Shops at 2nd & LOMA – is overseen by property manager Debbie Schwartz, who attended the groundbreaking today and said her 86 apartments are fully rented. Like others who have anticipated word of construction since the two buildings were demolished a year ago, Schwartz said, “Development over empty spaces is always a good thing.”
Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki remarked that construction on The Cooper is a clear indication of how successful things are going with residential development in the city and that the stretch of Lower Market Street will see an immediate benefit once The Cooper opens.
“I remember way, back decades ago, when ‘Wilmington 2000’ put a shovel in the ground down here and saw something that frankly, I didn’t see,” said Purzycki. “Everything that happened down here sat forlorned for ten years or more because there was no critical mass down here. But I remember so many times coming down here and being so grateful for the people looking ahead and made the big investment down here and just changed the entire block. The Cooper is going to completely transform this end of Market Street.”