July 18, 2001

Fox Point Association has launched a campaign to re-establish Edgemoor as a station on the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's regional railroad system. That is expected to provide an impetus to spur redevelopment of southeastern Brandywine Hundred.

Putting a local-service train stop there almost certainly would be followed in quick order by the long-sought redevelopment of the nearly empty Merchants Square along Governor Printz Boulevard and contribute to a general enhancement of residential property values in the area, according to Chris Koyste, president of the civic organization. Rail service also would offer a viable alternative transportation option for many people who live in the area.

"We need it ... if we're evidently going to accomplish what we see as necessary for the future of this area," he said. Beyond the immediate area, he added, "we see this as vital for the economic growth of New Castle County and the overall

quality of life."

First step in the association's effort, he said, will be to convince county and state officials that the idea has merit. A petition drive to that end has been started.

Koyste said the apparent success of extending the Septa R-2 rail line to Newark and building a new station on the Delaware Park property at Churchmans Crossing has made it clear that providing direct rail service in the area immediately north of Wilmington is an idea whose time has come. There is a station at Claymont.

This long-idle tire outlet on Governor Printz Boulevard opposite Merchants Square is seen as a likely site of a new Edgemoor railroad station. The railroad runs behind the building below the towers supporting the electricity wires.

The petition asks that Edgemoor be given priority in connection with any move to increase Delaware's participation in the Pennsylvania authority's system. Delaware Transit Corp., a unit of the Delaware Department of Transportation, partners with Septa in subsidizing service on the Delaware leg of the rail line.

Delaware Transit's long-range business plan already  includes a recommendation that a major study of the feasibility of putting a station in the Edgemoor-Fox Point Park area be conducted in fiscal year 2003.

Fox Point Association has zeroed in on the long idle former motion picture theater and tire store between Governor Printz and the Amtrak right of way. Septa uses the Amtrak tracks for its line, which runs through center-city Philadelphia to Warminster, Pa. That property, like Merchants Square, is owned by a corporate entity associated with developer Frank Acierno.

Koyste said the Fox Point Association proposal has not been discussed with Acierno nor his representative because no one from the Acierno organization has deigned "to return any of my phone calls for more than a year." Delaforum was similarly unsuccessful when seeking comment.

"A station would make [private redevelopment] so attractive, it would almost have to happen," he said.

If not, Koyste, who is a lawyer, said he has looked into the possibility of having the Acierno properties condemned for public use and concluded that both the county and the state have that power. "If they were willing to go that route, it would just be a matter of letting a court determined what the property is worth," he said.

While there have been several proposals in recent years for redevelopment of Merchants Square, which long-time residents know as Wilmington Merchandise Mart,  the civic leader said the one which seems to make most sense at this point would be a combination of office development and service and retail outlets to serve the businesses located in the offices and the people who work there.

The office complex would be within walking distance of the railroad station as would the communities of Edgemoor Terrace and Paladin Club. Edgewood Hills and Gordon Heights are also close. It would be handy to north Wilmington and all of southeastern Brandywine Hundred, he said. Just as M.B.N.A. Bank provides employee transportation between the Churchmans Crossing station and its Ogletown-area facilities, so too could firms in the Bellevue Corporate Center, he said.

Koyste said that, unlike the traditional concept of commuting into a big city in the morning and returning in the evening, service through Edgemoor would work both ways. By way of example, he said a professional working in Philadelphia could live at Paladin Club and someone living in Delaware County, Pa., could easily commute to an office in Merchants Square. A University of Delaware student living in Edgemoor could take a train to classes in Newark. Travel to downtown Wilmington and the Christina Riverfront would be easy.

There was a train station at Edgemoor which was used by the old Pennsylvania Railroad on its Wilmington-Chester Local line through the 1960s. Located in the midst of what it now the Edgemoor interchange with Interstate 495, it was torn down when that connection was built in the late 1980s.

Area boosters said 15 years ago that the highway interchange was the key to revitalization and certain to awake interest in Merchants Square. The idea then was to have it house factory-outlet stores which were said likely to attract customers from afar by way of the Interstates. That didn't happen.

Koyste said he thinks the reason was that the interchange idea was conceived in isolation. "There was no strategic plan for economic development to follow [building of] the interchange," he said.

Working in favor of the rail-station project at this time, he said, is the increasing interest in so-called intermodal solutions to not only transportation problems but related concerns such as air pollution.

He said Fox Point Association is not adverse to other rail-related proposals, such as the idea of having a railroad connection linked to a marina in Fox Point State Park. "We're certainly not opposed to that, but we think if it's a choice, it would be better here than in a park," he said.

2001. All rights reserved.

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