"Everybody [else] was afraid of it,"
he said. "What I saw was an industrial property with no
environmental problems, partly in the city [with city services]
and having easy access to I[nterstate]-95."
Pettinaro bought and bided his time while the investment
matured. Twenty years later, folks who didn't even know Dravo
Corp. existed and built some of the ships that helped fight
World War II, and still can't properly pronounce the defunct
company's name, are flocking to the Christina Riverfront for
outlet shopping, a ballgame, an arts exhibit, a cocktail at a
trendy watering hole, a stroll along a scenic path, or a
combination of those attractions.
Except for Daniel S. Frawley Stadium, subsidiaries of Pettinaro
Enterprises still own the properties and the company is looking
to even more development -- a third section of stores, a
suites-type hotel and an office building in a former warehouse.
Pettinaro Enterprises in the early 1990s picked up Paladin Club
northeast of Wilmington at a bankruptcy sale and has more than
made a go of the visionary plan the former owner had for the
run-down former Clifton Park Apartments complex.
More than 500
condominium units have now been sold and reconstruction of
remaining empty buildings into 100 or so more continues. The
project turned profitable about two years ago, Gregory Pettinaro
In that case, he explained, the possibility that the
company could emulate its success in converting the former
Park Apartments into Greenville Place
was obvious to insiders. Developer Arthur Schlessenger failed
not because he didn't have a good idea but because he and his
Tall Trees Associates partnership did not have the capital to
make it work, Pettinaro said.
Because Pettinaro Enterprises is a family corporation, it
does not disclose specifics, but Gregory Pettinaro said
its ventures are all financed internally. And, more to the
point, they are undertaken with the idea of making money.
Novel as its approach might have sounded just a couple of
years ago, it is now considered by a still small but
growing and influential cadre as definitely last century
thinking. Urban and suburban sprawl are out and 'smart
growth' is in. No less an authority than the National
Geographic Society, in a recent journal article,
characterized the new approach to redevelopment with the
Paladin Club (top)
and Riverfront Shops are two of Pettinaro Enterprises'
successful redevelopment ventures.
potential to create a lifestyle on
something of the scale that the post-World War II baby boom did.
Both Delaware and New Castle County are moving ahead with
legislation to promote what Governor Ruth Ann Minner has labeled
a 'livable' locale.
Pettinaro is a
good deal less lyrical talking about it. "Just say we like
redevelopment. We think there is a lot of value in redeveloping
when compared to building something new," he told Delaforum.
The Riverfront project is a good case in point. Symbolically
that is expressed in the fact that rusted industrial cranes were
left in place and painted bright colors to create
improbable but highly imaginative landmarks. They may not
attract visitors to the site, but they give a distinct identity
to where they are when they go.
human level, he points out that Paladin Club's present
attraction -- for "singles, mingles and empty nesters" -- is the
very thing that many feel doomed Clifton Park -- its location.
The easy highway commutes to Wilmington and Philadelphia, he
said, will be even better when and if an Edgemoor train station
comes to be. As Delaforum previously reported, Fox Point
Association is advocating re-establishing a stop on the
Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's R-2 rail
That is not to say that
redevelopment works if left to its own devices. At Paladin,
there are still things to be done relative to the future of the
former Edgemoor Elementary School building on the site and
neighboring Merchants Square, which Pettinaro Enterprises does
While his company is clearly
in the forefront of the 'smart growth' movement hereabouts,
Pettinaro said there is one major misconception that has to be
put aside before it catches hold with others in the building and
development business. Government subsidiary, he said, is not a
sine qua non to the process.
"Don't get me wrong, I would gladly take government money or
government help if any of it was available. But what I'm saying
is that it's not necessary. Redevelopment can be a good
investment in itself," he said.
agreed, however, that a project like the Christiana Riverfront
would not have moved as quickly and as well as it has without
the support of the quasipublic Riverfront Development Corp. and
publicly-financed projects like the Riverfront Walk and the
planned development of a large nature preserve in the wetland
just south of the properties.
probably never will be authoritatively determined is what
influence the rebirth of the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team
had on it. "That got it started and it needed something to get
it started. But who can tell if the Riverfront would not have
worked without [Daniel S.] Frawley Stadium or whether the ball
club might have died if there was nothing else down there,"
Pettinaro said. "All I can say is that every bit helps."
Asked if there might be a sequel to that 1986 decision in the
making, he replied, "Nothing I want to talk about right now."