plan for Barley Mill Plaza
Cross fears that the proposed redevelopment of Barley Mill Plaza
will cast a shadow over his home in adjacent Westhaven --
He told a Planning
Board hearing on the exploratory plan for the massive Stoltz
Realty Partners project that he checked with the Naval
Observatory and found out that your typical eight-story building
emits a 431-foot shadow two hours prior to sunset during autumn,
when the trees between his property and the former Du Pont Co.
complex shed their leaves. That's more than enough to shade his
house and those of many of his neighbors, but he has since
learned that the tallest of the 29 buildings Stoltz proposes to
erect will be 11 stories tall.
Shadows and what
pass in Delaware for skyscrapers spell declining property values
and dehanced quality of life, a parade of residents of several
of the affluent suburbs which radiate out from the western edge
of Wilmington said during 90 minutes of testimony at the hearing
on July 1.
"It's a real threat
[to] some of the most prominent communities in Delaware,"
Jeffrey Schlerf said. "It's going to draw outsiders to the
Stoltz lawyer Pam
Scott said the mixed-use development on the 96-acre site will
consist of 1.4 million square feet of "exciting, nicely
developed" retail space, 657,000 square feet of commercial
office space and 700 residential units in a
All but one of the
former Du Pont office buildings will be demolished, she said.
She did not specify which one nor explain why it will be left
standing. Du Pont, which is moving operations to its nearby
Chestnut Run complex, sold the property to Bryn Mawr, Pa.-based
Stoltz, reportedly for $90 million, last year. The new
development is said to be a $525 million project.
Scott said it
is too soon to provide a firm timetable, but the project is
expected to take about 10 years to build in phases that she said
will be geared to "market conditions."
She said that the low-rise retail
area facing Centre Road will be set back about the same distance
as the present office buildings. "As you work your way into the
project, it starts to get taller," she said, with high-rise
apartments and condominiums and culminating with the 11-story
Pointing out that
the development code requires compatibility with surrounding
areas, board member Sandra Anderson said, "There are no other
11-story buildings around [in the vicinity]."
Craig Wasserman, of
K.A. Inc., a Cleveland, Ohio-based architect firm, acknowledged
that "this is a little bit of uncharted territory as far as the
county is concerned."
Scott was unable to
provide an explanation when board chairman Victor Singer
questioned several differences in details on the plan filed with
the Department of Land Use and the drawing displayed at the
hearing to which she referred while explaining the plan. The
closest she could come was to note that the proposal is in its
very early stages with many details yet to be determined.
Singer said the
purpose of the hearing was to begin to develop a record of
public comment that will form the basis for guiding the project
through the approval process. The board will not make a
recommendation at this point. The site does not require
rezoning, but the project must comply with a wide variety of
code requirements to receive approval.
Scott said that,
while there will be changes as the process proceeds, the overall
project will not be increased in scope. Later, during a brief
'rebuttal' period after public testimony, she categorically
denied suggestions that there could be an intention to stop
after just some of the phases are completed.
"We're in the very
early stages. Lots of issues raised [during testimony] we're not
in a position to discuss tonight," she said. But, she added,
"there is absolutely no chance there is going to be any
abandonment of [part of] this site."
Singer drew a laugh
from the standing-room-only crowd when he routinely asked if
there was anyone in the audience who wished to testify in favor
of the project. That is the standard way to begin taking
testimony. He had plenty of takers when he next asked if anyone
of the Wilmington area recognize that the issue apparently is
roilling the Kennett Pike-Westover Hills community more than any
other since it was being buzzed by biplanes and Piper Cubs when
what is now the Barley Mill site was the Du Pont Airport and
housed a distant ancestor of U.S. Air. Despite the size of its
complex, Du Pont Co. managed to keep a low profile and go about
its business quietly, aided no doubt by recognition that it was
helping pay the mortgages of many of the community residents.
now was County Councilman Robert Weiner, who represents the
near-in Christiana Hundred suburbs. He set the tone for
testimony when he described the proposed project as "bigger than
Christiana Mall" and the largest ever in the history of New
Castle County. He said it was "out of context with the community
character" and "is designed to draw regional traffic ... in
incredible numbers." At a minimum, he said, it requires "a
binding manual of design guidelines."
Tansey, whose adjacent district includes the Barley Mill site,
did not attend the hearing.
McEvilly, who formerly was a consultant to Delaware Department
of Transportation, said the project will "completely overwhelm
existing infrastructure." She said both Kennett Pike and
Lancaster Pike are reaching their capacity and Delaware Route
141, which includes Centre Road, is overburdened. "There is no
room for expansion [of those roads]," she said.
pointed out that 2,000 Du Pont employees will be relocated but
not removed from the area. They will continue to use the roads
in the area while being joined by those who will live, work and
patronize the stores in the redeveloped Barley Mill Plaza, he
David Amado, music
director of the Delaware Symphony and area resident, said
additional traffic will acerbate an existing noise problem. "It
will obliterate bird calls and make outdoor conversation a
shouting match," he said.
questioned whether there would be enough patronage to support
the proposed retail establishments, which necessarily will be
upscale. "We're not going to get another K-Mart or a Target. How
are we going to sustain something this size?" she said.
"The scale of this
thing is off the charts. ... It's bizärre," said Clinton Laird.
that, in the end, opposition cannot prevail over allowable
development. "We're not here to stop it. We're here to make it
the best possible project," he said.
Scott concluded her
remarks by promising that Stoltz "will continue to be meeting
with people in the community and talking about the project" as
it moves forward.