Jeremy Smith's Commentary

User submitted October 10, 2012

The Shipyard Shops Outlets in Wilmington, Delaware was a small outdoor outlet mall built in the late 1990's. The struggling city of Wilmington had hoped that the Shipyard Shops would become a central attraction to the Wilmington Riverfront, an area that has been the focus of urban renewal attempts since the 1990's. The Tanger Outlets had been a smashing success downstate in Rehoboth Beach, and the city of Wilmington was hoping to cash in on the outlets craze of the '90s.

The Shipyard Shops opened to great fanfare with the hope that it would bring lots of visitors to the Riverfront. It is a typical 1990's brick building, with shipping cranes placed around it as a nod to the area's past as a shipyard. It was placed at the end of the Wilmington Riverwalk, a red-brick pathway along the Christiana River that is popular with joggers. There was some promising success at the beginning. It had at one point about 15 outlets like Big Dogs, Blair Catalog Outlet, BonWorth, Coldwater Creek Incredible Outlet, Dress Barn/Dress Barn Woman, Factory Brand Shoes, L'eggs/Hanes/Bali/Playtex, L.L. Bean Factory Store, Lillian Vernon, Nautica, and one Totes/Isotoner/Sunglass World. One by one, the outlets closed as the Shipyard Shops failed to gain traction with shoppers.

One problem was access. Though the outlet store was located near I-95, there wasn't a direct access and getting there was confusing. Another problem was the lack of desirable demographics in the surrounding area. The downtown Wilmington area comprises mostly of office buildings, with few middle-class residents. The shopping center also had to battle the crime perception of the Wilmington area. Finally, with larger, established malls like Christiana Mall to the south and Concord Mall to the north, the Shipyard Shops were just never able to compete. The economic downtown proved to be the final knock-out punch, and by 2009/2010, the last of the stores had left.

There are two original tenants left- Molly's Ice Cream and Timothy's Irish Pub and Restuarant. See photo linked below.

Timothy's Irish Pub can be seen off into the distance, with the white fence around their outdoor patio. Molly's Ice Cream, a cutesy 1950's throwback ice cream parlor, is next to Timothy's. They've both done fairly well for themselves and I've been stopping at Molly's since high school in the early 2000's.

Recently, Shipyard Shops has been re-branded as the Shipyard Business Center, and advertised as a mixed-use center. Website Linked below.

The former LL Bean space has been converted into a Planet Fitness, and tenants such as the University of Phoenix and the Wilmington Rowing Company have filled up some of the space. A medical facility catering to senior citizens is also getting ready to open up.The future of the property seems to mainly rely on becoming office space, though a restuarant called Ubon Thai Cusine opened in 2011 to the other side of Timothy's Irish Pub.

It is a shame that the shopping center never really took off, because it is a nice-looking building with great views of the river.It's possible that retail could come back to the center as the Wilmington Riverfront has built new condos and residents are coming to the area, but that remains to be seen.

Links - 2009 photo by Dan Callahan where you can see how empty the space is - Shipyard Business Center
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