The Buccini/Pollin Group used a Chevy pickup truck to cut the ribbon on its brand new parking garage in downtown Wilmington Monday morning.
The event, which was attended by Mayor Michael Purzycki, City Council President Hanifa Shabazz, and other officials, marked the opening of the Mid-Town Park Garage at 820 N. Orange St. It includes 511 parking spaces and replaces the old Mid-Town Parking Center, which was condemned in 2011.
Mid-Town is the city's first underground garage, with five levels of parking dug about 10 stories deep -"probably the biggest hole ever built in the City of Wilmington," according to Chris Buccini, managing partner at Buccini/Pollin. It was more expensive to build underground, Buccini said, but the investment will be worth it.
"The reason we did that is because when we build, we're really trying to think half a century out," Buccini said. "We're not thinking about what's the quick flip to get in and out of here. We're really thinking about multi-generational. We knew that if we went up with this massive garage, it would have looked like crap. It wouldn't have given this city the look and feel that it deserves."
The garage will offer special discounts to drivers who visit restaurants or entertainment venues nearby. Later this year, Buccini/Pollin plans to cut another ribbon on the adjoining apartment complex, which will include 200 rental units. The complex will also include space for retail and amenities for residents, including a gym, a pool, and private terraces.
"People don't understand how you can get excited about a parking garage, but it's an important part of everything else we're doing down here on Market Street and this side of the city," said Mayor Purzycki. "You can't take these things for granted. They're not easy to do. They're not easy to finance. But leave it to our guys at BPG to put this together and have the foresight to build these apartments right next door."
The ribbon-cutting also attracted about 20 members of the Coalition to Keep Bus Service on Rodney Square. Before the event, the members lined up across the street and chanted "Let's be fair and share the square, bring buses back to Rodney Square," and "Public transportation, not public discrimination."
The coalition is protesting the removal of some bus service from Rodney Square, which had served as a hub for many of the bus lines that service the downtown area until late last year. The protesters carried signs and made speeches referring to emails, uncovered by The News Journal, which showed government officials and developers, including Buccini/Pollin, discussing changes to the bus service prior to a required public hearing.
"We all know what's happening at Rodney Square is racist, and it is wrong," said Dion Wilson, a coalition member.
The coalition says the changes to bus service make it more difficult for public transit riders to get around the city.