January 23, 2003

Old Lancaster Pike has been identified as the focal point as Hockessin seeks to become the third unincorporated community in New Castle County to define itself as an identifiable 'village'.

Jim Smith, of the county's Department of Land Use told a meeting of the Greater Hockessin Area Development Association that a 'visioning process' through which residents and business people in the area can determine the desired extent and direction of redevelopment is about to get underway.

Hockessin will thus join Centreville and Claymont as communities with professionally guided master plans to preserve and enhance long recognized but never specifically defined identities without having to establish themselves as incorporated municipalities.

County government has encouraged and supported the other efforts, but Hockessin's is the first in which it has taken the lead. Smith, a professional planner, has led the data assembling which has led up to the public unveiling of the project before the umbrella civic organization.

He said, however, that the intention is not to impose anything but to encourage a grsssroots effort with as extensive a degree of community participation as possible. That began last summer with establishment of a steering committee representing a spectrum of local interests. That will be extended on Feb. 12 with a public meeting to gather ideas from as many local people as wish to participate.

"If this is going to work, you have to have the community buy in," Smith said. "There is a lot of history in Hockessin and you want to preserve that heritage."

As with the other communities, a significant impetus is Delaware Department of Transportation plan to improve safety and better control traffic passing through the area. In Hockessin's case, however, the logical 'village main street' is not the targeted highway. Lancaster Pike, or state route 41, which was built many years ago as a bypass, lies a couple of blocks east of the original road, now identified as Old Lancaster Pike.

Smith noted that the former will remain as the path to take traffic through the area while the latter is used to bring traffic into the 'village'. An important contribution to that, he added, is inclusion of a traffic signal at the Valley Road intersection.

In response to a question, he said DelDOT's safety enhancement project will necessarily be coordinated with Pennsylvania's transportation agency but that Delaware has no intention in the foreseeable future to match the neighboring state's plans to widen Route 41 into a four-land highway.

While it will be left to the 'visioning process' to determine how extensive redevelopment along Old Lancaster Pike will be, Smith said that it will include the key elements of such projects going on in urban and suburban areas throughout the nation. Those include 'adaptive reuse' of existing buildings, provision for extensive pedestrian access, preservation of historic structures which reflect the area's heritage, roadway improvements which allow for vehicular traffic but 'calm' and control its movement, and esthetic improvement through landscaping, decorative lighting and the like.

Potential for all those things in the likely core area between the county library and the railroad tracks. In addition, he said, residents of the Hockessin area "have enough disposable income to support [commercial] growth" considered necessary to sustain 'village'-style redevelopment.

2003. All rights reserved.

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