River site targeted for 1,200 apts in loan-default sale

O'Neill Properties chairman Brian O'Neill. (Tom Gralish / Staff Photographer)

Control of the 21-acre former Bancroft Mills site on the Brandywine in Wilmington, where King of Prussia developer Brian O'Neill once hoped to build 1,200 apartments, is up for sale, with "a $14.8 million non-performing loan and selective rights" collateralized by the once-bustling knitting mill property offered to investors or would-be developers by JLL's national sales team (Peter Nicoletti in NY, Doug Rodio and Jim Galbally in Philly).

O'Neill had floated plans to build up to 1,200 units on the site, or a smaller number of homes, but uphill neighbors worried about traffic congestion have so far prevailed on city officials to block renovatin. The property, dubbed "Rockford Falls," looks like a stone European town nestled into a bend of the river and jutting over the rocky loud waters, bordered by state parkland, downhill from one of the city's quieter residential neighborhoods of single-family homes.

While O'Neill and local developer Verino Pettinaro and others have built or rehabbed hundreds of apartments and some offices in adjacent parts of the city's former water-powered factory district, most of the Bancroft complex, which once employed thousands, now stands silent and in slow decay; the last operation, a dye works, shut in the early 2000s.

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