River, rail, and roads at heart of Evraz redevelopment plan

“First State Crossing, River Rail & Roads at Claymont,” is a concept plan for the full 425 acres. It includes walking trails, warehouses, manufacturing and office space, a new train station, and a logistics center.
“First State Crossing, River Rail & Roads at Claymont,” is a concept plan for the full 425 acres. It includes walking trails, warehouses, manufacturing and office space, a new train station, and a logistics center.

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By Christi Milligan

Developers of the former Evraz Steel Mill have proposed a redevelopment plan that would incorporate the site’s prime location at the junction of two major highways, a railway, and the Delaware River.

Commercial Development Company Inc. (CDC), a St. Louis-based company that specializes in commercial real estate and brownfield remediation, purchased the former steel mill earlier this year and contracted Wilmington firm Tevebaugh Associates to develop a master plan.

The result, “First State Crossing, River Rail & Roads at Claymont,” is a concept plan for the full 425 acres that includes walking trails, warehouses, manufacturing and office space, a new train station, and a logistics center.

Mixed uses in the proposal include:

  • First State Corporate Center is a 30-acre site with 600,000 square feet of office buildings and trails along Naamans Creek.
  • First State Employment Center will include research space, manufacturing, and warehouses.
  • First State Transit Center is a multimodal transit center proposed for a 12-acre site just a half-mile off the existing Claymont Train Station.
  • First State Logistics Center allows for development of a one-mile bulkhead and a logistics center for port, rail, and trucking.

For architecture and engineering firm Tevebaugh, it was another opportunity to be part of an expansive hometown project.

“We always want to be involved in the higher-profile projects in our region,” said partner Bill Lenihan. “This is a huge opportunity for the state and local communities, and any chance we have to be part of that we’re grateful for.”

Lenihan said that historical research was critical to the master plan. His team also examined how they could restore Naamans Creek as a natural feature in the center of the site and add pedestrian and bike paths to continue the progress of Delaware greenways.

“There’s no other site like it with the crossroads of intersections,” said Lenihan. “There are just so many opportunities.”

One opportunity contained in the plan is to make a boulevard, or gateway to Claymont, said Lenihan. The new road would link Naamans Road and Philadelphia Pike. The plan also calls for the replacement of industrial frontage along Philadelphia Pike with streetscapes, pedestrian walks, bike lanes, bus stops, and landscaping.

The area around Naamans Creek would include fitness trails and parks, and both the historic Darley House and Robinson House will be preserved.

“Lots of small things that show up as pieces and parts that highlight opportunities,” said Lenihan. “The development within the parcels will be market-driven.”

Lenihan said the plan calls for just one new road, and the infrastructure and utilities already exist. But with frontage along the Delaware River and a plan for pedestrian and bicycle paths, the project required involvement from WILMAPCO, the Army Corp of Engineers, Claymont town officials, and other groups.

“Everybody’s been extremely positive about each of the components for the site,” said Lenihan.

Scrap steel, including existing buildings, was sold by Evraz prior to sale of site to CDC. There are still 18 months left in the cleanup process. Nearly 375 employees worked at the Evraz Steel Mill when it closed in 2014.

CDC specializes in horizontal development, razing buildings and remediating sites for vertical development. Its North American acquisition and redevelopment portfolio includes more than 50 million square feet on 250 sites throughout most of the U.S.

“CDC has a strong history of eliminating blight and finding new opportunities in environmentally distressed areas, most of which are remnants of old industry,” said John Kowalik, director of marketing and public relations. “We seek to repurpose sites where we see the most growth potential, like Claymont — with a good logistical infrastructure, a motivated workforce, and access to ports, highways, and airports.”

The project is Tevebaugh’s first work with the company. Already the firm has been retained for sites in Perth Amboy, N.J. and Michigan.

“It sure gave us a great opportunity,” said Lenihan. “It’s a new client that’s immediately turned into a repeat client.”

Lenihan said he hopes that future development at First State Crossing will include his firm.

“We’re fortunate to be involved at an early phase, and our goal is to stay in contact with CDC,” he said. “And there’s greater opportunity to be involved with other pieces. Each of these other pieces and parts will have its own master plan.”

For the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation (CRDC), master plans for First State Crossing mean concrete steps toward revitalization efforts of Claymont, an unincorporated arm of Wilmington with roughly 16,000 residents.

“Our concern after learning about the global steel market was that we were going to have a mill that opened and closed on a regular basis, or a permanently closed, rusting steel mill for quite a number of years,” said Brett Saddler, executive director of CRDC.

Saddler said that the plan’s projection of 5,000 jobs will be a boost to the area’s economy. Claymont is largely home to blue collar workers, according to Saddler, who praised the plan’s mix of uses and job possibilities.

“One of the reasons why I took this job was I believe in the revitalization potential of Claymont due to its location and other factors,” said Saddler, who grandparents built a home in the area in the 1930s. “Because of the challenges that it faced I was told it could take a generation and nothing happens overnight.”

Saddler said the construction the Darley Green residential community anchored by an$11 million library was the first step toward revitalization of the area. Job creation is critical to its future.

“You can make things look nice in a town but without the jobs for your residents, it’s a fruitless effort.”

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