Real Estate - Commercial

New Downtown Development Proposal Saves Old Bailey Theater Facade

By Cece Nunn, posted Nov 11, 2021
The Bailey Theater facade (shown in 2017) still stands in downtown Wilmington, and the owner of the property plans to incorporate it into a new building if he gets the necessary government approvals for the plan. (File photo)

The owner of a landmark property in downtown Wilmington wants to incorporate its historical remnants into a new commercial building.

Stamatia “Nick” Saffo of Global Property Holdings and Saffo Contractors said Thursday that he’s restarted efforts to redevelop the former Bailey Theater property, 20 N. Front St., that his company bought in 2017. 

The theater was built in 1942 and demolished in the 1980s, except for the facade.

In recent years, the art moderne facade was also in danger of being demolished. But in the latest plan, the facade would be incorporated into a building with three retail spaces, a restaurant space and a potential rooftop use, such as a bar, gym or coffee shop, said Saffo, who is Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo's brother.

Nick Saffo said his brother is not involved in the project.

The Bailey proposal also includes installing a simulated Bailey movie theater marquee like the one that graced the theater in its heyday. 

Saffo said he estimates the project could cost $1.5 million to $2 million. Saffo said he chose the retail route as opposed to cramming 72 condo or apartment units into a six-story building on the property at a cost of $8 million or more.  

He said the restaurant would face North Front Street while the two other retail units would face the alley adjacent to Circa 1922.  

Asked why he's moving forward now with the project, Saffo said, "We were working on it and then after COVID hit, we kind of put everything on hold."

The project is on the agenda for the city of Wilmington's Historic Preservation Commission meeting next week. 

Rob Romero, the well-known Wilmington architect behind the design of the Cargo District and other area homes and businesses, has created the look of the proposed new Bailey building.

"We wanted to give a nod to the history and infuse a little bit of contemporary design," Romero said.

According to Saffo's and Romero's application to the historic preservation panel for a certificate of appropriateness, the primary entrance of the building would be on North Front Street.

"The original design of the Bailey Theater included two bays for storefronts, placed together on the south side of the first floor, and the theater lobby featured a larger entrance on the north side. This configuration is still evident in the openings of the facade structure," the application states. "The new buildings would incorporate these existing openings and building orientation."

Materials would include glass windows, steel and a stucco finish to match the facade, according to the application.

The HPC meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Nov. 18 in the Wilmington City Council chambers, 102 N. Third St.

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