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Old Delaware Trust Building being transformed

 Once it claimed to be the largest commercial building owned by an individual person; the runners-up among the 'big three' chemical companies called it home; and a maverick millionaire ran an upstart bank there. Come September, the venerable Delaware Trust Building will provide upscale living quarters for a range of tenants from yuppies to empty nesters.

Sharla Dick, project manager for the Buccini-Pollin Group, told attenders at a preview event on June 11  to show off sample apartments that 150 applications for the 280 units have been received and that she expects the charter roster of residents to number nearly 50 when the first two of 12 floors are ready for occupancy around Labor Day.

Rents will run from $790 a month for a 'studio' apartment to $2,000 for a penthouse suite.

Ted Blunt, president of Wilmington City Council, said that is anticipated to contribute to significantly "increase the number of people [living] in downtown Wilmington." The building at Ninth and Market Streets .hopes to emulate the former Nemours Building nearby which apparently has been successful in attracting tenants.

Even as  he and Dick spoke, construction crews continued to work to meet what seemed like a daunting timetable. Fewer than 90 days to go and there obviously was much to do. Vintage building erected in 1921, especially for a bank and the corporate elite, do not yield easily to change.

As it happens, Buccini-Pollin has decided to join rather than fight the historic past. There will be no attempt to disguise the building's former life. The classic banking floor becomes the 'great room' -- a gathering area similar to a hotel lobby. The inlaid griffins -- Delaware Trust's trademark -- will stay as will the rosettes that adorn the ceiling. The vault floor below will be a large fitness center with one of the original vaults glassed off for display. Even the silver plaques that identified the bank entrance will remain, although the main doors will be the next ones up the street.

Only the name will be changed -- to Residences at Rodney Square.

Workmen cross what used to be Delaware Trust Co.'s lobby. The bank was founded by William du Pont to rival Wilmington Trust, the 'family's bank'.  Unlike its erstwhile cousin, Delaware Trust did not survive the merger mania that dominated the banking business. Nor did its successor, Core States, reopen after a fire on the 14th floor in 1997 which shut down the building. The lobby will retain the spiral staircase and other featurres as it becomes the apartment building's signature 'great room'.