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Developers Palmer Gillis and Tony Gilkerson are donating the $4.4 million Plaza Gallery Building and Annex on West Main Street in Salisbury to the Salisbury University Foundation Inc.
Developers Palmer Gillis and Tony Gilkerson are donating the $4.4 million Plaza Gallery Building and Annex on West Main Street in Salisbury to the Salisbury University Foundation Inc. (Submitted photo)

Two developers in Salisbury have donated a building worth $4.4 million to Salisbury University, giving the school a facility officials say will aid the goal of creating a stronger presence in Salisbury's downtown area.

The university on Wednesday announced developers Palmer Gillis and Tony Gilkerson will donate the Plaza Gallery Building and Annex on West Main Street to the Salisbury University Foundation, Inc.

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The acquisition of the building is being facilitated through the foundation. The university plans to acquire it pending approval by the University System of Maryland Board of Regents. University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach and University System of Maryland Chancellor Robert L. Caret hailed the donation, with Caret saying in a press release that the gift "will enrich not only Salisbury University, but the greater Salisbury community."

Opened in 1930, the Gallery Building for years was home to the F.W. Woolworth Co. Gillis and Gilkerson renovated the then-vacant structure after buying it in 1992. Located in the city's historic district, the four-story, 60,000-square foot building includes retail, office and residential areas.

The building is less than a block away from the recently renovated Salisbury University Art Galleries Downtown Campus on North Division Street, opened in 2013.

Officials said potential university uses for the building include cultural and extra-curricular offerings, support for young entrepreneurs and development of programs for retirees, volunteers and other community members. School officials said they would honor leases with existing retail and office tenants in the building, which include a nonprofit art institute and a pizzeria.

Gillis and Gilkerson both have ties to Salisbury University. Gillis earned his bachelor's degree in business from the school in 1975 and served on the foundation board from 2000 to 2006. Gilkerson is the father of two graduates from the university's Franklin P. Perdue School of Business.

In a statement, Gillis said "it is critical for the City of Salisbury and downtown revitalization efforts that the university have a presence and footprint on Main Street. ... There's no better use of our building than expanding the university's presence in one of the city's fastest growing areas."

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