The vacant site of a century-old former gathering place in downtown Delaware could make a return in the near future.
Delaware City Council last week approved tax incentives to 2nd Half Ventures LLC, owned by David DiStefano, to offset costs to replace the 14 W. William St. building that was demolished in 2015. DiStefano is a co-owner of the 12 West restaurant, 12 W. William St., located next door to the vacant site.
“This has been a project long time in the making two-and-a-half years ago,” he said.
The two buildings will be connected via an internal doorway and legally recognized as one entity, but will operate as separate restaurants, DiStefano said during a June meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission that approved the project.
“What we’re considering is a sports bar; a family-style sports bar, but separate from 12 West,” he said.
The approved 1,392-square-foot building will have a a 442-square-foot patio set back about 17 1/2 feet from the property line, according to city records. The patio and the sidewalk would be separated by a gate.
“We’re trying to attract maybe a broader audience,” DiStefano said.
Council approved a 100-percent, 15-year tax abatement to generate about $70,640.85 in savings during that period. DiStefano plans to invest $310,000 in the new building and has committed to hire nine full-time equivalent employees with a payroll of $350,000 within three years after the building is completed.
In addition, Delaware City Schools will have to approve the tax abatement and a school compensation agreement. DiStefano’s 2nd Half Ventures LLC will pay $1,170.04 per year to be split proportionally between the school district and the Delaware Area Career Center after the 15-year period.
The payments would be equal to 30 percent of what the district would have received without the abatement on the new construction. But it would be more than double the revenue of what the district receives from the vacant property.
The original building, constructed in the late 1800s, was a grocery and a cigar store. It later became a men-only stag bar and then the West End Grill, which vacated that location in 2013, according to city records.
The building sustained damage from 12 West’s second-floor fire as well as natural deterioration from age.
“West End Grill was literally falling down,” DiStefano said. He recalled when the building’s chimney fell on the roof to 12 West’s kitchen before it collapsed inside.
The Historic Preservation Commission had discussed post-demolition with the building’s previous owner, James Manos, in September and October 2015. During those meetings, Manos proposed converting the site into parking lots, but the commission did not support it. Instead, the commission approved a new building that never materialized.
DiStefano purchased the building in June 2016 and presented early plans with 12 West co-owner and operator Ron Criswell for an informal review to the commission in August. He received formal approval of the plans in November.
But DiStefano scaled back the scope of the project, which the commission approved in June, because new building costs exceeded expectations.
Construction will take about 90 days when the project begins and the restaurant’s new name will be determined afterwards.
“We’re hoping to move ground next month,” DiStefano said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.