[caption id="attachment_17153" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Developers discussed challenges and plans for new businesses in 2016//Photo by Kathy Canavan.[/caption]
By Kathy Canavan
Four major Wilmington developers told what keeps them up at night at the Urban Land Institute's Delaware Developers' Forum earlier this month.
Michael Hare, senior vice president of Buccini Pollin Group, got a round of applause when he joked, "The presidential election terrifies me. It does keep me up at night, especially last night [Iowa Caucus]. My God, 300 million people and this is the best we can do?"
Hare said interest rates are one of his concerns: "The interest rate issue is terrifying to all of us, although the government has demonstrated they have the ability to intervene when needed."
With Buccini Pollin a major investor in downtown Wilmington, Hare said his other concern is "the issues we live with every day" - the amount of homeless people, burned-out streetlights, buses on Rodney Square.
"The City of Wilmington keeps me up at night," said Greg Pettinaro, CEO of Pettinaro, a major player at the Riverfront. "I think a lot of it is hearsay and it's getting overblown as to what the problems are," he said, but he said people from outside the city might be influenced by the talk.
"I worry about, of course, the interest rates," said Angela Tsionas-Matulas, principal in Tsionas Management, the company that plans a new $40 million luxury-apartment and retail center on the site of the Galleria Shoppes on Pennsylvania Avenue. She pointed out that Delaware historically trends better economically than the rest of the nation.
"What keeps me up at night most is job growth, said Louis Capano III, a principal in Capano Management, LC Construction and LC Homes. He said without job growth his company can't build apartments, the office market won't be buoyed and retail will probably sag. Capano's other concern: interest rates. "We're basing everything on a 2 percent 10-year note. If that goes to 5 percent, our deals don't look so good."
Wilmington Economic Development Director Jeffrey C. Flynn said the city is growing jobs, now up to 53,039 from about 50,000 in 2000. The largest job sector is finance with 12,473 jobs. Other strong sectors include professional, government and health.
Flynn said small companies that service those sectors are beginning to dot the downtown. "We're starting to see a little startup quarter happening ...," Flynn said. "I think it's going to have an impact on real estate. Wilmington's going to have its third co-working space open up in a couple months, The Mill in the Nemours Building."
"Nothing attracts young professionals like a well-paying job," he said. " Nothing attracts well-paying jobs like a talented workforce."
Capano said his company is building apartments and expanding its retail centers, but has no new retail in the pipeline.
Pettinaro said his company's 2016 focus would be on multi-family. He said the company's purchase of much of the commercial property in Greenville last year will allow the company to work with community groups on plans that everyone will want. "Having one developer control everything helps," he said.
Tsionas-Matulas told the group all of her mostly mixed-use student apartments around Newark's Main Street are 100 percent leased and she has waiting lists for apartments currently under construction.
Hare discussed his company's plans to do over the Concord Plaza office park as a mixed-use development with shops, high-end restaurants and a four-story signature office building. "We think it's a great contribution to set a trend for Brandywine Hundred, revitalizing Brandywine Hundred," he said.