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10/13/2013
Applied Bank Center, Formerly Rollins Building, Has New Look; Plans Still In The Works

By Wade Malcolm  The News Journal 10/13/13

It could be the first sign of new beginning for suburban Wilmington’s most recogniz¬able buildings.

Commuters passing by on busy U.S. 202 no longer see the purple-and-gold logo of global drugmaker AstraZene¬ca outside the former Rollins Building.

In its place is a new sign – and with it a new name – for the iconic 15-story office tow¬er, Applied Bank Center.

In late August, AstraZene¬ca sold for $10.5 million to an investment firm owned by Rocco Abessinio, founder of Newark-based Applied Bank.

As it has for months, the building continues to sit emp¬ty, a big departure from its glory days as the office of Del¬aware business magnate John W. Rollins.

But the new ownership has launched an effort to redefine the building as a home for high-end professional ser¬vices, such as accountants, es¬tate planners, investment ad-visors and law firms.

And while the building will bear Applied Bank’s name, it’s unknown what, if any, physi¬cal presence the company will have on the property.

Abessinio said in a inter¬view the bank is considering a plan to make the building its corporate headquarters, a move that could bring hun¬dreds of new jobs to the state.

Applied Bank remains chartered in Delaware and has branches in Wilmington, near Newark and Rehoboth Beach, but the bank moved much of its operations across the state border several years ago to an office campus with about 300 workers in Concord Township, Pa., near the inter¬section of 202 and U.S. 1.

The bank has actively mar¬keted the entire complex searching for new tenants.

It found one when the for¬mer DuPont Co. Performance Coatings unit – acquired by the The Carlyle Group and now known as Axalta – decid¬ed to move 232 workers there from Barley Mill Plaza.

If it can find companies to occupy the rest of space, it could bode well for Applied Bank making the move back to Delaware.

“There are several factors that are under consideration, and that could be part of it,” Abessinio said.

“We think it would be a good space for an executive area in banking. ... It would make a perfect headquarters for a firm. The top floors has some great amenities.”

With about $179 mil¬lion in assets, the bank built its business special¬izing in high-interest credit cards for high-risk customers with bad cred¬it history.

However, but Applied Bank has “de-em¬phaized” that business in favor of commercial lending, Abessinio said.

For Wilmington’s re¬covering commercial real estate market, the re¬turn of Applied Bank would be an ideal out¬come, said Neal Dangello, executive managing di¬rector for the Wilmington office of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, a commercial real estate firm.

“If we could get them back, any jobs are posi¬tive for our market place,” in which office space was about 18 per¬cent vacant at the end of June, Dangello said.

Aside from the bank’s possible relocation, the future of the building may rest on whether it can attract such firms from outside of the area or lure businesses out of the city of Wilmington with the promise of lower taxes and easier parking.

“We think it will be at¬tractive to people inside the city of Wilmington right now,” said Blaise Fletcher, a senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, the brokerage handling the leasing of the property.

“If you’re from Dela¬ware, you know the Rol¬lins Building. It won’t be called the Rollins Build¬ing anymore, but it will still have that prestige.”

Because of the its rela¬tively small floor plans, Dangello sees the build¬ing as an appealing desti¬nation for small- to medi¬um- sized companies of around 50 employees.

Some law firms could be less inclined to remain in the city now that elec¬tronic filing allows them to submit documents to the court. While that could be a draw for boutique firms in estate and trust prac¬tices, it will be less of an option for attorneys who appear in court more of¬ten. 

Contact Wade Malcolm at 302-324-2386, on Twitter @WadeMalcolm or wmalcolm@delawareonline.com.

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