Saint Francis Hospital is heading to the Riverfront

Saint Francis Hospital is heading to the Riverfront

March 20, 2012
The News Journal | Eric Ruth

A few years after losing most of its tenants and nearly fading from shoppers’ consciousness, the pioneering retail center at the far end of the Riverfront development area has just signed another key tenant, bringing it to 92 percent occupancy and giving it a new identity and future as a mixed-use property.

Wilmington-based St. Francis Healthcare is the latest to lease space at the center along the bank of the Christina River, which had lost 10 retail tenants in the past five years.

St. Francis will use the 28,000-square-foot space to house a senior health care program, called Living Independently For Elders (LIFE). The program “provides services to those who would otherwise need nursing home care while they remain in the community in their own home or the home of loved ones,” according to its website.

St. Francis chose the location because it is “centrally located and easily accessible,” said Joanne Piscitello, executive director of continuing care for St. Francis.

“Our ultimate goal is to provide compassionate, patient-centered care in a state-of-the-art facility; but we are pleased that this location allows us to support the local economy,” Piscitello said in a statement.

Construction on the project is planned for this spring, with an opening in the fall.

The area’s amenities are naturally suited to businesses like the LIFE center, which is expected to have a staff of about 75, said Rob Stenta, director of commercial leasing for Pettinaro Management, which runs the center for its owner, Newport-based developer Pettinaro Co.

“It’s close to the city; it’s close to I-95,” Stenta noted. “It has free parking and you get to go on nice walks at Riverwalk and go to a nice lunch.”

Now called the Shipyard Center, Pettinaro’s property now comprises an eclectic mix of tenants, including a 24-hour fitness center, Amtrak offices, an ice cream shop, two restaurants and a bank. Since 2007, the center had lost such retail tenants as L.L. Bean, Nautica and Dress Barn.

In 2010, however, three new tenants were signed, and another three opened last year, including Ubon Thai restaurant, University of Phoenix and MidCoast Community Bank.

“I think it’s partially the fact that the economy is picking up,” Stenta said of the recent rise in leasing activity. “But it’s also the fact that the place is unique, being close to the convention center, being close to I-95.”

Stenta said two of the center’s original tenants—Timothy’s Riverfront Grill and Molly’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream—“hung in there and weathered the storm,” and now are enjoying the rebound. “They are all doing fine,” he said. “I don’t have any tenants that are crying the blues anymore.”

Pettinaro, which owns and leases the Riverfront pad sites for Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant and Joe’s Crab Shack, also recently signed the Mexican chain restaurant Margaritas to open along the Christina. Pettinaro also owns several of the office buildings in the area south of the Amtrak train line.

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