DCAD sells Saville residence corridor for $3.3M

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Yada Properties recently acquired the Saville in downtown Wilmington, and will convert the former residence hall into an apartment building. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON – The Delaware College of Art and Design (DCAD) recently sold its neighboring residence hall to a New Jersey-based real estate investment and management firm, which is converting it into a market-rate apartment building.

Trading hands for about $3.3 million in the Jan. 5 sale was the historic Saville building, located at 521 N. King St. The five-story, 42,000-square-foot Saville features 42 units, translating to a sale value of about $78,500 per unit.

The buyer is the same investment group that bought three apartment complexes in and around Wilmington totaling more than $9 million last year. Those complexes have since been managed by 6-year-old, New Jersey-based Yada Properties, run by principal Robert Eisenberg.

CBRE represented DCAD in the sale, while Patterson-Woods Commercial Properties/CORFAC International represented Yada.

“The sellers found themselves in a position where they had excess housing during the COVID-19 crisis, and the buyers wanted to expand their Wilmington investment portfolio. Because of the cooperative nature of both parties, we were able to complete the transaction in a smooth and timely manner,” said Chris Moore, principal at Patterson-Woods who represented Yada, in a statement.

Formed by the merger of the Pratt Institute and the Corcoran College of Art and Design in 1966, DCAD offers college degree programs in animation, fine arts, graphic design, illustration and photography. It has long been based in downtown Wilmington, with its main building, boasting classrooms, administrative offices and several galleries, still featuring the original Art Deco detailing that was served as the Delmarva Power headquarters.

In 2011, DCAD acquired the neighboring Saville, which was home to the James T. Mullins and Sons department store in the 19th and 20th century. Under the college’s ownership, it housed the 707 Residence Hall, 707 Cafe, and the Tatiana Copeland Student Center.

Both the Saville and DCAD’s main building have been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985.

Eisenberg told Delaware Business Times that he was impressed with the historic nature of the Saville, its unique high ceilings in units and the impressive amount of common space for an older building. His firm expects to complete renovations to the Saville over coming months with the hope of opening it to market-rate leasing of one-and two-bedroom units by late spring or early summer. While DCAD students will likely be a potential clientele, Yada won’t specifically market the complex to them.

“The Saville is a really beautiful and historic building, and we’re really excited to be able to bring it back to the marketplace and make it available to the general public again,” he said.

Yada has been making increasing investments in the Wilmington area after previously buying and managing multi-family properties in Southern New Jersey, Eisenberg said. The firm is trying to keep its holdings in a tight geographic region, but they believe Wilmington’s market has strong leasing patterns and potential for the future, even despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eisenberg noted that unlike its previous local investments, the Saville deal came together completely amid the pandemic. Yada invests for the long term, he added, noting that they expect leasing to be strong as the economy enters a wider recovery later this year.

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