Significant restorations are under way Downtown

Kathy Shubert and Tyler Barnes, both with Gillis Gilkerson, tour progress that’s being made in the renovated Powell Building in Downtown Salisbury.

Downtown Salisbury will see the continuation of exciting development and redevelopment projects with trendy new apartments, retail spaces and a restaurant expansion.

Among them is the long-awaited completion of the former Vernon Powell Shoes building on the Downtown Plaza that has had its upper floors converted to 20 apartments, some of which are expected to be ready in October.

“We are almost there,” said developer Joey Gilkerson with Gillis Gilkerson and NAI Coastal.

Until its sale last year, the property had been the single-largest Downtown building that had never been redeveloped, he said.

Apartments on the top floor will be ready first while work continues below, floor by floor, he said. The industrial-style one- and two-bedroom units have exposed brick walls and ductwork.

Tenants in The Powell Building will have access to a roof deck that offers views of downtown and the river.

“It’s just a really unique vantage point,” Gilkerson said.

The Powell Building in Downtown Salisbury.

The building also offers tenants a fitness center, storage units and a room set aside for the secure delivery of Amazon packages.

Businesses will be on the ground level of the building, including Main Street Kids which moved in last year.

Since purchasing the 45,000-square-foot 218 West Main St. from the Wright family of Vernon Powell Shoes, Gillis Gilkerson has moved carefully to redevelop the property.

Kathy Shubert and Tyler Barnes of Gillis Gilkerson show off the renovated Powell Building in Downtown Salisbury. The new retail/apartment space could be ready sometime in October.

The unique structure is essentially a two-story department-store-style retail space on its Downtown Plaza frontage, but a huge warehouse on the Camden Street side. It was gutted and opened up to new possibilities.

In creating a retail environment, the previous owners installed HVAC systems that required drop ceilings, extensive drywall and featured a then-modern layout needed to appease mall shoppers.

The view from a walk-in closet in the the renovated Powell Building in Downtown Salisbury.

Now, that will be converted to open space that will become apartments and commercial space. When completed, the Powell Building will house residential urban apartments and feature 20,000 square feet of commercial space.

The developers are actively courting commercial users of all types – retail, restaurants and office users –and will have spaces available as small as 2,000 square feet.

Work in the building, which was built originally as a Montgomery Ward store, has been going on for the past few years – most of it spent with the longtime owners clearing out stored items that had accumulated upstairs over many decades. Gilkerson said going through the things in storage and deciding what to keep and what to throw away was time-consuming.

“There were a lot of sentimental and valuable items,” he said.

Mogan’s expansion

In spite of the Covid-19 pandemic that has been the ruin for some in the restaurant industry, Mogan’s Oyster House in the One Plaza East building is not only still open, it is expanding.

“We’ve been doing great,” building owner Bret Davis said of the popular spot. “We’ve had a ton of community support.”

Davis, who owns Davis Strategic Development, said he is expanding the restaurant’s kitchen and also gutting the space next door to serve as overflow dining for the restaurant as well as a private banquet space. He hopes to have the work completed in time for holiday parties. Until recently, the space had been occupied by DiCarlo’s Printing, which has since moved to Northwood Drive.

Since he purchased One Plaza East – the former Wicomico Hotel – Davis created a Division Street entrance to its lobby to replace an all-but-hidden main door on the other side of the building off of an alleyway.

An ice cream shop, Angello’s Scoops, and Mogan’s now sit on either side of the new entrance.

Recently, Davis added a rotating art gallery on the first floor that is currently featuring the work of a local artist.

City Center

A few blocks away on the Downtown Plaza, Davis is wrapping up work at the City Center – a building first created by local businessman Bill Ahtes in the 1970s out of three old storefronts that had been damaged in a fire.

Since purchasing the building in 2018, Davis has embarked on a complete renovation that has included the creation of a new entrance to Roadie Joe’s Bar & Grill off of the Plaza. Previously, patrons entered the restaurant through the City Center lobby.

He also has renovated the lobby with a glass elevator in the center atrium.

The building now has 17 tenants, including an art gallery, record store, barbershop, hair salon, two clothing boutiques and a skateboard shop

Other projects

Further east on Main Street, construction on The Ross is expected to get under way in November, said Amanda Pollack, the city’s Director of Infrastructure and Development.

The 165-foot structure will be built at 130 and 132 East Main St., using the historical facades of the existing buildings and adding nine more stories.

A separate six-story building is planned for the former Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce property at the corner of Baptist Street that will connect to the 12-story structure next door via a foot bridge over a landscaped alleyway. Another bridge will connect the taller building to the top level of the city’s parking garage.

Salisbury officials agreed last year to let the developer use fill dirt from a pile at the wastewater treatment plant to build up the former Chamber site which sits in the flood plain.

Around the corner on East Market Street, Davis has plans to build a luxury apartment building and a beer garden along Salisbury’s waterfront on two former city properties. So far, he does not have a start date for either project.

The 49-unit apartment complex will be built on what is now a parking lot on the opposite side of the Wicomico River from the Riverwalk Amphitheater. It will include a sky deck on the roof, a small gym, game area, media room and first floor secure parking.

The beer garden with its own parking area will be next door.

And on West Market Street in the Riverview Commons building, Gilkerson said NAI Coastal will soon be taking up residence in the space once occupied by Acorn Market. They will be neighbors of The Land Group which moved into the former Angello’s Gifts space.

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