Thanks to the Buccini/Pollin Group, hundreds of new and affordable apartments are going up on and around Lower Market Street.
Between the couple hundred units BPG is building directly on Market and the few more hundred units on 9th between Orange and Shipley, the city’s creative district will soon be bustling. But with whom?
What the district needs in order to be properly revitalized is residents who both work and live in the area — not renters from other cities who strictly use their units for a quick, temporary stay.
"It's bumping into people on the street that creates the community and balances those relationships."
“It’s not that people aren’t renting down here, but what are they doing while they are in Delaware?” asked Katie O’Hara, whose interior design biz is based out of coIN Loft. “Are they just working or are they also spending their weekends and going to events or restaurants and bars? You need a sense of population and business to attract other people.”
That’s one reason why O’Hara recently decided to move to LOMA from Hockessin. And she’s not alone.
She’s joined by itr8group cofounder Rory Laitila and Carvertise cofounder Mac Nagaswami.
“You don’t have multiple city options in Delaware — this is really it,” said Laitila. “I lived in New Castle and would commute up to the Loft, which was fine, but being two blocks away from the Loft — I walk back and forth all the time, can come and go at any hour — I really enjoy it.”
Laitila said Wilmington’s LOMA district is a viable option compared to living and working in Philadelphia, where he said living expenses would increase up to $1,500 a month. Plus, he and O’Hara agree that the community in Wilmington gives its residents a better sense of placement, where relationships are easier to forge.
“It’s bumping into people on the street that creates the community and balances those relationships,” he said. “Larger cities can have that, but Wilmington is small enough that I tend to see someone I know every time I’m out.”
For Nagaswami, living in the district is a convenient fit for his lifestyle.
“I went from six blocks away from downtown to living on Market Street a block and a half down from coIN,” he said. “The world is in my front and back yard. I’ve got everything I need within a four block radius.
Plus, between I-95 and the Amtrak corridor, transportation can be a breeze.
“A lot of my friends are in Philadelphia, I have family down in Baltimore,” said O’Hara. For her, living right off 95 is prime position. “One of the things that’s really important to me is keeping in touch with them and seeing them frequently.”
The train station is just a ten-minute walk away for Laitila.
“I kind of get the benefit of being a bigger fish in a small pond in Wilmington, but honestly for the nightlife stuff I want and visiting friends, it’s very convenient to take the train into Philly,” he said.
The three agree that the idea of young creatives living and working in LOMA is, at the moment, under the radar. But hopes are high.
“People who are already living and working down here and have worked for their lifestyle, they’re on the forefront of something that I really, really hope will be a big boom coming in the next few years here in Wilmington,” said O’Hara. “I really truly want to see this community revitalized and vibrant again.”