CLAYMONT – The public got its first up-close look at the updated redevelopment plans for the 425-acre former Evraz steel mill on Dec. 3.
More than 100 residents came out to the meeting hosted by the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., a public-private nonprofit tasked with fostering the revitalization of the north Wilmington unincorporated community, and Community Development Company Inc.(CDC), the owner and developer
of the project.
Plans for the development, called First State Crossing, have evolved significantly since the St. Louis-based CDC bought the former steel mill in 2015. The latest concept includes 3.27 million square feet of new construction, breaking down to 1.8 million for residential in 1,207 units, 989,000 in seven office buildings, 380,000 in three industrial buildings and 105,000 in six retail buildings.
Central to the redevelopment project is the new Claymont rail station, which is serviced by Amtrak and SEPTA, and will be moved northeast from its current location on the line. John Sisson, CEO of Delaware Transit Corp., told the crowd that ground should be broken on that $71 million project next year with completion scheduled for early 2022.
Sisson showed the crowd a 3D rendering of the station that will serve about 1,200 passengers each weekday and aims to draw in commuters from Pennsylvania to employers built at the redeveloped site. To serve locals, the plan calls to increase parking from 504 spaces to 870, split roughly in half between a parking garage and a parking lot, as well as modernizing the facility.
Meanwhile, Bill Rhodunda, of the Wilmington law firm Rhodunda Williams & Kondraschow LLC, told the crowd that much of the work to date on First State Crossing has been preparation for 2020, when officials expect to be able to begin breaking ground on the first phase. The entire buildout could take as long as a decade or more, according to officials.
Stephen Collins, executive vice president of CDC, which specializes in commercial real estate and brownfield remediation, reported that the large project is being broken up into roughly five sections.
Phase 1: A 17-acre office park adjoining the train station, featuring a four-story, roughly 175,000-square-foot office building; a 460-space parking garage to serve it; and later a three-story, roughly 100,000-square-foot office building.
Collins said that CDC has several prospects for office space that are awaiting final approval of a traffic impact study by the Delaware Department of Transportation. He said their analysis and DelDOT’s preliminary review determined that the existing system and signals are adequate to support the full build-out of First State Crossing.
Phase 2: On the far northern end of the site at the corner of Naamans Road and Interstate 95, across from the Tri-State Mall, a 32-acre site is proposed to feature a nine-story Class A office building measuring about 432,000 square feet with a seven-story parking deck. Complementing this section will be a strip retail center, pharmacy and restaurant off Naamans Road.
Phase 3: A 35-acre site off Philadelphia Pike will feature three industrial buildings, including 280,000 square feet for industrial warehousing; 50,000 square feet for industrial warehousing; 50,000 square feet for a self-storage facility; as well as a 94,000-square-foot office building. This portion of the property is also where Gaudenzia purchased 5 acres and rehabilitated the former Evraz office building into a substance-abuse treatment center.
“They did a complete gut rehab on that building,” Collins said. “They put about $3 million into that building and did a great job.”
Phase 4: The other half of the central portion of the site will be mixed use, featuring a gas station, grocery store, strip retail with restaurants, three office buildings and apartment complex similar to the nearby Darley Green community.
“We are working with a retail developer at this point; we don’t have a completed agreement, but we’re very excited about some of the ideas they have for this site. They have very good connections,” Collins said.
Phase 5: The last portion of the project being proposed on the southern side of the train tracks is a residential development featuring apartments and hundreds of townhomes. Collins said that the development team has talked to over 40 apartment and residential developers in the greater Philadelphia area and there’s “very strong interest in the project.”
“We consider this to be Darley Green Plus, because we have the transit center, river view, parks and trails,” he added, of the project called Riverview at First State Crossing.
Collins also announced that the First State Crossing plan calls for the creation of more than 5 miles of trails for recreational use, drawing some applause from the crowd. Although First State Crossing covers nearly 425 acres, only about 235 acres will be developed with 70 acres committed to open space.
CDC’s plans for the property have differed over the months and plans to build a shipping facility at an existing riverfront bulkhead were scrapped after Gulftainer USA obtained the rights last year to redevelop the former DuPont Edgemoor plant into a similar facility. That area is now proposed for the Riverview at First State Crossing community, although Claymont residents expressed a desire for a marina or waterfront retail to be built on a portion of land still vacant to the south in the redevelopment plans.
New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer told the crowd that he was closely watching progress on the project just as they were.
“I grew up off Shipley Road and I drove out to the Tri-State Mall all the time – probably not as much as Gov. Carney or Vice President Biden – but Claymont has a very close place in my heart,” he said.
“There’s a grand vision out there to really make it something special,” he said, noting Claymont has a strong industrial, natural and community history. “It’s quite a challenge to put that all in the mix and figure out how to produce something that satisfies the community’s needs and doesn’t put any additional burdens on it.”
By Jacob Owens