Developer proposes multi-use community for AstraZeneca site in Wilmington

An artist's rendering of plans to convert 1.8 million square feet of an unused portion of a Wilmington AstraZeneca site into a mixed-use community. (Della Donne & Associates)

An artist's rendering of plans to convert 1.8 million square feet of an unused portion of a Wilmington AstraZeneca site into a mixed-use community. (Della Donne & Associates)

Over the years, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has laid off thousands of employees, and its Wilmington site off Concord Pike has been scaled back significantly.

Now, a developer has proposed transforming an unused part of the property.

Della Donne & Associates plans to convert 1.8 million square feet into a community of office spaces, luxury apartments, a hotel, restaurants and shops.

Della Donne intends to rebrand and revitalize the area with a modern, walkable multi-use space — with a small town vibe, said attorney Larry Tarabicos.

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“Developing properties that segregate uses, where you have separate offices, separate homes, separate shopping, all that does is require everyone to get in their car to drive and get a carton of milk — and that doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We need to get back to developing communities that are more well-rounded. There’s no doubt this is the best way to go.”

The plan calls for about a million square feet of office space that could accommodate more than 4,000 employees; 335 apartments renting for between $1,500 and $2,500 a month; a 200-room hotel; and about 200,000 square feet of restaurants and shops.

“It’s a trend and movement that’s been going on in our country for the last 20 years to return back to communities that are more oriented to the pedestrian, not the motor vehicle,” Tarabicos said.

“It’s been slow to catch on in some suburban areas like Delaware, but that’s sort of the idea and vibe we’re looking for is to create a sense of place, something that’s more like a small town, a small village, so you have activities all day long,” he said. “You have people who can stay on site from work if they want to, go to lunch, walk at lunch … We’re going to have a network of walking trails, bike trails, and certainly shops and restaurants that will serve the needs of the people who live there.”

R.J. Miles, president of the McDaniel Civic Association, said some area residents are concerned about traffic, the height of the proposed buildings and competition for local businesses.

He said he believes traffic will be more contained than when AstraZeneca was fully staffed, however, because a multi-use site contains individuals to one area.

Miles adds the plan will rejuvenate the Concord Pike corridor and set the bar high for other developers.

“The way it’s going to look and feel, it’s going to set the tone for others when it’s time to reinvest in their properties. They’ll have to do that in order to compete,” said Miles, who also is the vice president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, an umbrella group of more than 150 civic groups in the area.

An initial plan will likely be filed to the county and Delaware Department of Transportation in the next few weeks, Tarabicos said. If it moves forward, construction will start within three years and be halfway complete in about five years, he said.

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