Saturday, April 13, 2024

City officially takes ownership of downtown Thermo Fisher campus

The City of Wilmington closed Thursday on the $68 million purchase of 1001 and 1021 N. Front St., 929 N. Front St. and 155 Brunswick St. (Port City Daily/Amy Passaretti Willis)

WILMINGTON — For a purchase price of $68 million, the City of Wilmington has bought and closed on a 12.5-acre property as its new headquarters.

READ MORE: Is $68M a fair price for city purchase of Thermo Fisher building? LGC hears city’s pitch

The city entered into a contract with prior owners of the North Front Street campus, River Ventures LLC, in January. Staff underwent a due diligence period to analyze operations, space needs, building condition and environmental concerns.

Thursday sealed the deal; the acquisition — 1001 and 1021 N. Front St., 929 N. Front St. and 155 Brunswick St. — comes with a 12-story building, 1,022-space parking deck, and two vacant adjacent tracts of land.

The $68-million price tag is $43 million less than an appraised market value for the property, which came in at $111.3 million, according to the city.

While State Treasurer Dale Folwell opposed the financing, the Local Government Commission signed off in June on the debt.

The campus was developed in 2007 as the headquarters for PPD, which was purchased by Thermo Fisher in 2022. The company announced its intention to sell the building in November.

Buying the campus was also a less expensive route compared to alternative plans the city was considering to redevelop 305 Chestnut St for more than $90 million. A space needs analysis from 2022 indicated the city needed to expand its office space.

Instead, the city will consolidate multiple departments spread throughout buildings citywide into five of the North Front Street building’s floors. Two levels will be leased to Thermo Fisher for at least three years. The remaining space will be leased out at market rate to offset the purchase price.

As the city transitions into the new office, staff intends to sell off seven vacated city-owned properties; Thalian Hall will not be sold. The move to offload aging structure will “save millions” for the city in upkeep and maintenance, Mayor Bill Saffo said in a release.

He also said the new office campus represents “a creative and cost-effective solution to growing demands on downtown parking and city operations.”

The acquisition will allow for much-needed parking capacity near Riverfront Park and Live Oak Bank Pavilion, the latter which hosts up to 30 events each season.

The city initiated a request for proposals for architectural consulting services to assist with transitioning its operations into the new building. Staff anticipates moving into the building over the course of several months as occupancy plans and improvements are completed, according to the release.

Catch up on previous coverage here.


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