Partnership is looking to break ground for the
Brookview Apartments complex redevelopment project
in about a year. While that appears do-able, there
is some question whether repairs to the county
sanitary sewer system can keep pace with the joint
venture's five-to-seven-year buildout timetable.
Jonathan Husband, of the
Department of Special Services, refused to be pinned down to
giving firm assurance that the condition of the system in
north Brandywine Hundred will provide sufficient capacity
for about double the present number of residential units on
the site as phased construction goes forward.
That will happen "if
everything goes as everybody said it will," but until
current rehabilitation of the two trunk lines carrying
sewage along Governor Printz Boulevard to the
sewage-treatment plant in Wilmington is completed, "we
won't have sufficient data" to be able to be able to say so
with reasonable assurance, he said.
"I'm being optimistic," he
added. "We're working along as best we can. We know what's
at stake here."
At a briefing on the Bookview
project before County Council's economic development
committee on Jan. 23, Robert Ruggio, senior vice president
of Commonwealth Group, confirmed that his firm is talking
with Citi Steel and the Catholic diocese about the
possibility of acquiring additional properties on which to
develop housing for present Bookview residents who are
displaced by the redevelopment and could not qualify
financially to buy 'affordable housing' that will be built
in the new community.
Brookview has allotted sewer
capacity for its present 635 dwelling units and Ruggio
said site preparation will include replacing, at the
developer's expense, the entire system now serving the
66-acre complex. That will add to the allotment.
A big portion of the capacity
problem is attributed to the deteriorated condition of
sewers throughout the hundred. Broken and cracked pipes
allow rain water to infiltrate into the system and it is
additionally burdened by illegal hookups such as so-called
French drains. Those things will continue after the trunk
lines are replaced until they are remedied as part of the
extensive rehabilitation of the aged Brandywine Hundred
system, Husband said.
How extensive that drain on
sewer capacity is cannot be determined until the trunk lines
are replaced, which will be in about a year, he said.
Ruggio said the partnership
has hired an engineering firm to meter present conditions in
order to determine the extent of improvement wrought by
replacing the Brookview system. County policy is to match
While Husband cautiously said
he thinks there will be capacity available for Brookview, he
said he could not say if there would be enough for other
economic development in Claymont, which Brookview
redevelopment is expected to generate. "Unfortunately we
don't have concrete evidence to [determine] that. We do not
feel comfortable in making commitments ... [in] the
five-to-10-year time frame," he said.
Scott Riegel, owner of
Claymont Gardens Apartments, who told the committee that he
and his wife are planning residential development on another
property they own, said, "Our hands are tied as long as
there is a sewer issue. ... We cannot wait 10 years."
Biagio Scoto said the sewer
issue also is holding up plans to expand the Waterfall
banquet hall to include a restaurant the some retail
James Smith, assistant
general manager of the Department of Land Use, said that
county government is committed to and has given extensive
support to economic redevelopment of Claymont. Beginning
with $25,000 of 'seed money' to get the Claymont Renaissance
movement started in 2000, through helping pay for the
services of planner Thomas Comitta, to the most recent grant
of $25,000 to help Claymont Renaissance Development Corp.
"lure developers to the area," the county has provided
$189,000, he said. That does not count the value of the
extensive amount of time put in by planners and other county
While Ruggio unequivocally
reiterated a pledge to support relocation of displaced
Brookview residents, he said their economic circumstances
will make that formidable. "The people are at poverty level
or below," he said.
Brookview, which the
partnership is now managing, is losing residents through
normal attrition at the rate of 20 to 25 tenants a month, he
said. That will reduce the population to between 50 and 100
households by the time demolition is ready to begin.
In most, if not all, cases
their household incomes will be well below what would be
necessary to make them eligible to qualify to purchase
'affordable housing' in the new community. That, he said,
will likely be priced in the range of $165,000.
The partnership has agreed to
make 10% of the units in the redeveloped community
'affordable' for first-time homebuyers and others with
moderate-level incomes. In addition, it will build or
otherwise provide an equal amount of such housing elsewhere
in the Claymont area.
Ruggio said current thinking
in that regard involves such possibilities as extending
Knollwood farther into the Citi Steel property and building
on the site of the former Children's Home on Green Street,
which recently was put up for sale. Contact has been
established with both owners, he said.
Even if those possibilities
materialize, he said prospective buyers will likely need
"We want to be realistic
about where we're going here," Councilman Penrose Hollins
said. Brookview residents will have "to get in line" with
others throughout the county who are seeking a limited
amount of federal government housing assistance.
While not disputing that,
Councilman Robert Weiner said, "There is a lot of federal
[grant] money that we're leaving on the table for other
Lack of 'affordable housing'
is a countywide problem, Councilman Jea Street said. "We
keep talking about it, but we're not doing anything
specific," he said. "We need places for folks to say. We
have people sleeping on the street throughout the county."
Councilman Joseph Reda said
such things as adjusting the building code to allow
16-foot-wide housing, instead of a minimum 25 feet wide,
would help lower prices. The narrower width is a common
dimension of row houses in Philadelphia.
"Some other jurisdictions
have realized that great density is a solution," Weiner
said. The prevailing attitude here, on the other hand, is
geared toward producing housing for the high end of the
market. "That kind of thinking is that poor people live in
dilapidated houses and that [equates] to crime," he said.