The Wilmington waterfront will see new development with the announcement of construction of a new hotel and entertainment complex next to the Chase convention center.
The project will cost $37 million. Construction of the Wilmington Westin will be privately funded, although there is $1 million line of credit added to the project from the city of Wilmington. Mayor James Baker says the money is not a grant. The line of credit allows the financing to be completed. Baker says the line will last for five years.
The hotel project and an IMAX entertainment center had come under controversy in recent months because the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware (RDC) had asked the state of Delaware to put up $2 million in state money. However, critics said this gave the Westin project an unfair advantage.
“We decided the PR cost was not worth the money we were going to get,” said RDC Executive Director Michael Purzycki in explaining why the RDC withdrew its request for state funding. “Every project of this scope requires an exotic financial structure,” he said. Purzycki adds in the end Barclaycard provided the $2 million needed to solidify the project.
The RDC and the city of Wilmington have put their support behind the project for the last two years. Mayor James Baker in a recent interview on WHYY’s First called the project “a slam dunk.” They predict there will be 123 permanent jobs and 167 jobs during hotel construction. There will be another 70 jobs coming from the IMAX center. The RDC projects $3.9 million in state and city tax revenues in its first three years after the project is finished.
“We expect ground to broken in the next 60 days,” says Purzycki. He also says this will be a big draw for business shows who want to book their events in the Chase Center, but did not have a hotel close by. “Forward-looking projects like the hotel and cinema complex provide jobs, generate tax dollars and add to our quality of life,” he added.
While Baker has been pushing the project for the city. He echoed some of his earlier thoughts about going forward. “Whenever the City supports any type of project- new housing, new businesses, new entertainment venues- it’s a bit of a risk. On the other hand, if government didn’t take a risk-especially in this tough economic period in order to generate millions of dollars in private investment… then nothing would ever get done, ” he said.
The vote by the RDC to approve the project comes weeks after St. Francis Hospital announced it would open a senior care facility at the waterfront.