With Incyte Corp. backing out of a deal to buy Wilmington Friends’ lower school to build a new 5-story building, the 275-year-old education institution this week told the Alapocas neighborhood that it will not build a new lower school.
Instead, officials said in a letter to the affluent neighborhood, the school will renovate the current lower school building.
Incyte’s agreement to buy the lower school for $50 million in 2019 set off alarms in the community, which fought the plan, saying the size and lighting would disturb the neighborhood, as would a stream of cars driven by hundreds of employees to and from the structure.
The biopharmaceutical company was interested in the site because it’s close to the corporate headquarters on Augustine Cut Off, the former home of a Wannamaker’s Department Store.
“The sale offered us an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine our school on a consolidated campus,” said the letter from Ken Aldridge, head of school, and David Tennent, clerk of the board of trustees.
Area residents formed the group Neighbors for Responsible Land Use and fought the 400,000-square-foot project in government hearings, saying it was too big and too invasive.
“While we were pleased to have our right to build confirmed by the Delaware Supreme Court, unfortunately, Incyte informed us that they terminated the contract because New Castle County Board of Adjustments denied necessary approval of variances which were critical to their ability to move forward with their site plan,” the letter said.
Word about Friends deal
The Delaware Business Times had reported that Incyte appeared to be canceling the contract. It filed a form 10-Q with the SEC in which it said it did not expect to close on its planned purchase of the Wilmington Lower School parcel.
At the same time, Incyte wrote off $5.6 million in assets related to the planned development.
“We are disappointed, as our plan to build a new lower school on our main campus cannot proceed at this time,” the letter said.
“We remain grateful for this opportunity and for the bold and tireless action of our board, administrators and members of our community who worked toward bringing the vision of a unified campus to reality, including evolving our plans to address community concerns.
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The board will be back in touch outlining its next steps, the letter said.
“We are excited to move forward with plans for the Lower School as well as our upcoming strategic planning process that will begin this January,” the letter said.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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