than 100 people crowded into a Claymont Community Center
conference room on a sultry afternoon to get a first look at a
conceptual plan for the redeveloped neighborhood west of
Philadelphia Pike. No one expressed any objections to what they
unveiling could be regarded as a significant milestone in the
history of Claymont, a community which traces its roots to
Naamans, a 17th Century village, which itself was set on a site
where the Lenni-Lenape and probably earlier Indian tribes
dwelt. A less elongated view of history defines the occasion as
the culmination of more than five years of determined effort by
participants in the Claymont Renaissance movement.
"What brought us here was a phone
call from Bob Weiner," said Ruggio, senior vice president of
Commonwealth Group. That happened more than two years ago and
was followed by a series of calls from the councilman promoting
the Renaissance and Brookview's role in it. "We listened to him;
we believed in it,"
referring to the potential of successful
Neal Payton, a principal in Torti Gallas & Partners,
a planning firm specializing in urban development,
described the plan as something of a throwback.
"It's like we used to build before World War Two,"
he said, referring to Union Park Gardens in
southwest Wilmington and Overlook Colony in Claymont
as extant examples of how neighborhoods looked
before "we became tethered to our cars."
about an hour before the mid-afternoon meeting on
Aug. 5, the drawing was a synthesis of three earlier
schemes developed during a week-long charrette,
or workshop, attended at various times by
representatives of every entity having any sort of
interest in the redevelopment project.
• Exactly 1,200 units
in a mixture of townhouses, duplexes, condominium
and apartment buildings, retail stores and
no single-family detached houses in the plan.
Entrances off Philadelphia Pike at Manor Avenue and directly
opposite the driveway to the Patio, the original building on the
Archmere Academy campus. Several additional entrances off Darley
Road and from Ashbourne Hills are included. There could be a
possible connection to Seminole Avenue if property for one is
Retail establishments fronting on Philadelphia Pike and
extending a short distance into Brookview. Some of those
buildings would include apartments above ground-level shops.
extended Manor Avenue which widens into a town square or village
green with a pool and small community building. It also would
possibly be the site for the historic Adolph Wertmüller house
which would be moved from its present location on the Citi Steel
parkway, similar to Bancroft Parkway in Wilmington, which
connects to Green Street and crosses the neighborhood
perpendicular to Manor Avenue.
four-acre crescent-shaped park at the northern end of the
parkway. That actually would be a created wetland combing a
presently obscured tributary of Naamans Creek with a proposed
stormwater management system.
relatively large condominium building in Woodshaven-Kruse Park.
point in Brookview more than a five-minute walk from any other
point and the neighborhood itself within easy walking distance
of the commuter rail station and other Claymont destinations.
able to construct a condominium in the park would require
swapping land with county government in a way that would retain
the total amount of common open space and parkland while
giving the existing park a more open 'looked over' appearance.
participatory or other arrangement would have to be made with
owners of two tracts of commercial properties fronting on
Philadelphia Pike. That area is included in the plan although
Commonwealth does not own those properties. However, Payton
said, the other property owners "want to be involved."
previously reported, Commonwealth is to redevelop 'Brookview
Two' in a joint venture with Setting Properties. The
New Castle County-based development firms have a combined 35
years of experience in a variety of development projects in the
area, Ruggio said.
Two', he said, is a working title. The name to be given the
completed project will be determined, possibly by a public
Brookview purchase was referred to at the meeting as a $32.5
million investment. Ruggio indicated earlier that the firm may
extend its involvement in the Claymont area beyond that project.
said bringing the plan to fruition will require a significant
amount of preliminary spade work, including obtaining enactment
of state and county legislation. "A lot of things in [the plan]
are illegal. ... It's illegal to make a Main Street in
Delaware," he said.
starters, he added, a complete reworking of Delaware
Department of Transportation's plan for safety-related
improvements to Philadelphia Pike will be required. "DelDOT is
just not there yet. ... Its [plan] is designed for cars, not
pedestrians. We want to make people actually enjoy being on
Philadelphia Pike," he said. Among other things, the highway
should be redesigned to provide much wider sidewalks, parallel
parking, trees and traffic-slowing measures, he added.
said that Connecticut Avenue in Washington, near his home, is a
thoroughfare "with three times as much traffic as Philadelphia
Pike" where such design techniques are in place and working.
Contrary to impressions as the result of several references at
Claymont Renaissance and Design Review Advisory Council
meetings to negotiation-like discussions, county government
apparently did not enter into what previously had been described
as a 'development agreement' prior to Commonwealth's completion
of the purchase of Brookview.
spokeswoman Allison Levine told Delaforum that "there are no
agreements" and said that nothing of that sort will happen
before an exploratory development plan is filed with the
Department of Land Use.
told Delaforum that county officials and Commonwealth are in
agreement on such things as inclusion of so-called 'affordable'
housing in the plan, provisions for relocating present
low-income residents, availability of sanitary-sewer capacity,
and required deviations from provisions of the Unified
Development Code regarding such things as density and building
he confirmed, there are no written agreements. "Everything at
this point is by a handshake -- on good faith," he said.
has said there will be 'affordable' housing in the mix. In
response to a question at the meeting, he said it has not yet
been determined how much nor has it been decided what the ratio
of rental properties to those offered for sale will be.
said his firm will set up a 'housing office' in Brookview and
work with residents after determining their preferences to
remain in the redeveloped neighborhood or relocate elsewhere. He
said it will be sometime between 24 and 36 months before any
physical relocation will be necessary.
Executive Christopher Coons, in brief remarks at the meeting,
reiterated his support for the project and pledged cooperation.
"We've got a lot of details to work out. There will be some
rough spots," he said. Ultimately, however, the preliminary
in-public planning process which led to the plan's unveiling was
the first step on the way to "a stronger, safer, more livable
community," he said.
probably will fall to Councilman John Cartier, in whose district
Brookview is located, to take the first governmental step --
introduction of an ordinance to include the tract in the
abutting 'hometown' zoning district.
told the meeting that he is in full support of "this profound
public-private partnership ... which opens the door to the