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DCAD sells Saville residence hall for $3.3M

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Yada Properties recently acquired the Saville in downtown Wilmington, and will convert the former residence hall into an apartment building. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – The Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) recently sold its neighboring residence hall to a New Jersey-based real estate investment and management firm, which is converting it into a market-rate apartment building.

Trading hands for about $3.3 million in the Jan. 5 sale was the historic Saville building, located at 521 N. King St. The five-story, 42,000-square-foot Saville features 42 units, translating to a sale value of about $78,500 per unit.

The buyer is the same investment group that bought three apartment complexes in and around Wilmington totaling more than $9 million last year. Those complexes have since been managed by 6-year-old, New Jersey-based Yada Properties, run by principal Robert Eisenberg.

CBRE represented DCAD in the sale, while Patterson-Woods Commercial Properties/CORFAC International represented Yada.

DCAD President Jean Dahlgren said that the college was seeing a decrease in its resident student population even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, but the health crisis saw that number drop to zero in the fall 2020 semester.

“Fortunately, we were able to pivot to virtual education at the beginning of the fall term, but it did push the need to examine our long-term goals for our residence program going forward,” she said in a statement. “The sale will allow us to concentrate on important strategic initiatives such as program development, capital improvements to our classrooms at our 600 N. Market St. building, and to our remaining residence hall.”

Formed by the merger of the Pratt Institute and the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 1997, DCAD offers college degree programs in animation, fine arts, graphic design, illustration and photography. It has long been based in downtown Wilmington, with its main building, boasting classrooms, administrative offices and several galleries, still featuring the original Art Deco detailing that served as the Delmarva Power headquarters.

In 2006, DCAD acquired the neighboring Saville, which was home to the James T. Mullins and Sons department store in the 19th and 20th century. Under the college’s ownership, it housed students and the Tatiana Copeland Student Center. The college acquired the 707 Residence Hall located at 707 N. King St. five years later, and that property will undergo an HVAC upgrade soon due to funding from the Longwood Foundation.

Both the Saville and DCAD’s main building have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.

Eisenberg told Delaware Business Times that he was impressed with the historic nature of the Saville, its unique high ceilings in units and the impressive amount of common space for an older building. His firm expects to complete renovations to the Saville over coming months with the hope of opening it to market-rate leasing of one-and two-bedroom units by late spring or early summer. While DCAD students will likely be a potential clientele, Yada won’t specifically market the complex to them.

“The Saville is a really beautiful and historic building, and we’re really excited to be able to bring it back to the marketplace and make it available to the general public again,” he said.

Dahlgren said that DCAD was “very excited about our new neighbors, Yada Properties, and their revitalization plans.”

“All of these improvements are great for Market Street and will ensure that it remains an essential part of Wilmington’s Creative District while continuing to be a housing option for our students. It’s the best of both worlds,” she added.

Yada has been making increasing investments in the Wilmington area after previously buying and managing multi-family properties in Southern New Jersey, Eisenberg said. The firm is trying to keep its holdings in a tight geographic region, but they believe Wilmington’s market has strong leasing patterns and potential for the future, even despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eisenberg noted that unlike its previous local investments, the Saville deal came together completely amid the pandemic. Yada invests for the long term, he added, noting that they expect leasing to be strong as the economy enters a wider recovery later this year.

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