before the conceptual plan for redeveloping the
Brookview complex has been moved to the preliminary
proposal stage in the county's approval process, it
apparently has triggered the start of associated
communitywide renewal that Claymont Renaissance
backers have long said will happen.
A development firm which was
among the unsuccessful bidders to buy Brookview has bought
an adjacent property on Philadelphia Pike opposite Manor
Avenue and intends to redevelop it in alignment with what
tentatively is being referred to by some as 'Brookview
"We're accelerating our plans
[and] we'll work with Commonwealth [Group]," Brad Tate, of Westrum Development Co., told the monthly joint meeting of
the Renaissance and the community Design Review Advisory
Committee. "We welcome this opportunity."
County Councilman Robert
Weiner said the company which owns the Tri-State Mall
has agreed to begin discussion of a possible upgrading of
that shopping center and the "sea of dead asphalt" that is
its expansive parking lot.
Councilman John Cartier said
there also will be an effort to significantly "improve the
appearance of" the Claymont train station with U.S. Senator
Joseph Biden seeking to obtain federal financing to do so.
Also in the works, the
meeting on Sept. 15 was told, is renovation of the shopping
center at Philadelphia Pike and Harvey Road and replacement
of the separate Goodwill Industries building opposite the
new Wawa convenience store and gasoline station.
Interest in remaking the
state's northernmost community has been "enormously
stimulated" by the Brookview project, Cartier said. There
already are indications of an upward movement of property
values in the area.
Beyond that, he added, the
Brookview project "is going to cause huge changes in [how]
we regulate land use in the county" through the periodic
updating of the comprehensive plan new getting
underway and revisions in the Unified Development Code.
"This project has really
broken open the discussion. ... We're going to have
far-ranging dialogue," he added.
Westrum's participation will
likely be a key element in the Commonwealth-Setting
Properties joint venture to turn Brookview into a
considerably larger and more upscale community. It is
proposed that the property that Westrum has acquired,
which now includes the Midas Muffler shop, will be bisected
by an extension of Manor Avenue which will serve as the
community's main east-west street.
Tate said his company's
thinking is to locate retail establishments along the
street. They would occupy the first floors of an unspecified
number of four-story buildings, with apartments above
the stores. The buildings, he said, would comply with design
standards embedded in Claymont's 'hometown' zoning.
Brookview is not included in
the 'hometown overlay', but it is expected that Cartier will
introduce legislation to bring it in. Commonwealth also has
agreed to comply with the standards.
Tate said that Westrum
expects to be able to present a conceptual plan within about
Westrum, which is based in
Fort Washington, Pa., specializes in redevelopment with
emphasis on so-called 'brownfield' redevelopment; that is,
restoration of older unused or underused sites. It has
several projects going in Philadelphia, he said.
Meanwhile, Weiner said,
Commonwealth's proposal for Brookview will likely be filed
as a preliminary sketch plan with the Department of Land Use
this autumn. That is the first step in the process for
obtaining county approval for development. Although county
officials reputedly have guaranteed Commonwealth virtually
clear sailing, the process appears likely to be extensive in
dealing with deails.
As previously reported, the
proposal provides for constructing 1,200 residential units,
about double what now exist in Brookview, and relies on
'hometown' density standards rather than those in the
Unified Development Code. Also included is a proposal to
swap open space -- a combination park and stormwater
drainage area -- in the redeveloped community for land in
Woodshaven-Kruse Park on which to build a multi-unit
Commonwealth senior vice
president Robert Ruggio told the meeting that there will be
some rental units in the community and that so-called
'affordable housing' will be included. He said at this point
he cannot be specific about how many of each but that they
"will not be the main component."
He agreed with Cartier who
said that lack of 'affordable housing' is a major problem in
New Castle County. "It's nice to have 'mc-mansions' on
[large] lots, [but] our [development] code is only serving
the middle and top ends of the market," he said. "We have a
social mission to provide options for all the people of the
Weiner said it will be
necessary to overcome preconceived notions about what is
meant by 'affordable'. It is not low-income or subsidized
housing, but housing that is compatible with surrounding
areas while being within the means of young families at the
start of their careers and older folks with limited incomes.
He said a price range of $160,000 to $175,000 would be
He said another aspect of the
redevelopment proposal will be to overcome 'institutional
impediments' to so-called 'new urbanism' design when it
comes to "building villages."
The development code, for
instance, requires obtaining approvals to move back and
forth between commercial and residential uses of a property.
Over a period of time, "you can't go from a house to a
coffee shop to an office and back again to a house," he
said. Also, he added, state fire regulations oppose
on-street parking on main streets.
Consequently, he said,
Brookview will be a "pilot project for a paradyne shift in
how we do development in New Castle County."