Babies Hospital site height approved

by Daniel Bowden
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

During its Jan. 8 meeting at City Hall, Wilmington City Council unanimously approved a special use permit to raise the height of one of three buildings planned for the multi-use development known as The Sidbury, from 45 feet to 50 feet. This modification will eliminate office space at the 7205, 7215, and 7225 Wrightsville Ave. complex and allow the total number of residential units to increase from 102 to 110.

The proposed site of The Sidbury is currently zoned as Office and Institutional District – 1, which allows for building heights of up to 45 feet without a special use permit. The development is planned for mixed-use, with commercial space occupying the ground floor and office and residential space above it.

Approval for this increase comes after council voted down a request to raise the height of the same building to 60 feet in January 2012.

Several members of the public — many who live along nearby Summer Rest Road — turned out to speak against the modification during the 2012 meeting. Those who spoke did not believe a 60-foot structure would blend well with the surrounding area.

At the January 2013 meeting, Matthew Nichols, who represented developer Bailey and Associates, said the developer had taken the public’s input very seriously before proposing the new plan. He said the new plan is essentially an architectural request to enhance the appearance of the structure. J.C. Woodall, the project’s architect, said he believed it would be impossible to build the residential area they had planned without increasing the height.

Mayor Bill Saffo’s invitation to the public to voice opposition to the new modification was met with silence.

This modification is also expected to result in a slight reduction in area traffic. Average daily trips associated with residential units are considerably less than the average daily trips associated with the office space originally slated to go there. No parking modifications were required.

The proposed site of The Sidbury was formerly occupied by Babies Hospital, and retains the name of its developer, Dr. J. Buren Sidbury. Sidbury opened the original Babies Hospital in a small, wood-framed house in 1920. As it grew, it quickly developed a reputation as one of the premier pediatric centers in the state. At the peak of its operation, doctors traveled from renowned medical schools around the country to conduct their pediatric residencies.

Babies Hospital closed in 1978 due to a sharp decline in patient population, and was converted to leased office space until its demolition in January 2004. 

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