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New housing brings arts haven to downtown Wilmington

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Quaker Arts Wilmington Delaware HDC MidAtlantic

The new 53-unit Quaker Arts community off North West Street will prioritize artists, adding a unique feature to the affordable units. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HDC MIDATLANTIC

WILMINGTON – In a first for the city, a new 53-unit affordable housing complex is bringing support for the arts to the forefront.

Quaker Arts, a $16.3 million project at 801 N. West St., was first conceived by the former Connections CSP back in 2019. When that nonprofit collapsed amid a lawsuit-spurred bankruptcy though, project partner HDC MidAtlantic stepped up to see it through.

The Lancaster, Pa.-based HDC owns and/or manages more than 3,400 affordable housing units in Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. Since it had already been selected as the property management agent for Quaker Arts, it made picking up the pieces of the project much easier, said Dana Hanchin, the president and CEO of HDC.

“Coming in to figure out how to preserve and continue moving a project forward seemed like the right thing to do in terms of our mission and also supporting the community,” she told Delaware Business Times.

The biggest obstacle to overcome was working through the red tape of the project financing as the ownership group entered bankruptcy, Hanchin recalled. The Delaware State Housing Finance Agency, Alliant Capital, The Reinvestment Fund, and Federal Home Loan Bank were among the investors on the project.

“Everybody was working together to make sure that this project moved forward. So, there was a lot of creative problem-solving and working together,” Hanchin said.

Quaker Arts Wilmington Delaware HDC MidAtlantic

HDC MidAtlantic CEO & President Dana Hanchin, resident Brian Mack, Mayor Michael Purzycki, resident Kurtis Conix, State Rep. Stephanie Bolden, Housing Alliance Delaware Executive Director Rachel Stucker, and Delaware State Housing Authority Director Eugene Young Jr. cut the ribbon on Quaker Arts on March 8. | PHOTO COURTESY OF HDC MIDATLANTIC

On March 8, the partners gathered to celebrate the fruits of all those labors, as they officially opened the project to new residents. The project, which features a mix of studio, one, two and three-bedroom units, has subsidized units with monthly rents ranging from $350 to $1,035. Currently 60% of apartments have been leased, and the average income for those residents is about $26,000.

It marks a rare affordable housing project near Wilmington’s central business district, where a flurry of market-rate communities have started pushing rental rates well above $1,200 a month.

“To be able to ensure that many residents of Wilmington can benefit from the growth of center city and the amenities around there feels like a positive contribution to revitalization of Wilmington,” Hanchin said.

Housing Alliance Delaware Executive Director Rachel Stucker noted the ongoing need for affordable housing resources in Delaware, which currently suffers from a shortage of 18,000 affordable apartments across the state.

“For every one affordable and available unit, there are three families that need that housing,” she said in her March 8 remarks. “We need more units that people in our community can live in, can thrive in, and can raise their kids in. We will only get there if we’re willing to do what we did here, which is work together and invest.”

The most unique feature to the Quaker Arts project is the priority preference for artists, who can take advantage of dedicated art studios, music rooms and event space built into the bottom floor of the new building. It’s not HDC’s first experience with that feature though, as they managed an artist community known as South Side Lofts in a converted former church in Bethlehem, Pa.

“We’re really trying to figure out how we can maximize that community space not only for the residents of Quaker Arts but also for the various partners that are dedicated to that community,” Hanchin said. “It is something that you have to have intentionality and discipline around to make sure that is successful. Just by stating it and offering the space doesn’t necessarily catalyze success.”

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