Clockwise from top left: A mixed-use building proposed for 92 E. Main St.; apartments recently approved for 36 Benny St.; the proposed site of a 44-townhouse development off of West Chestnut Hill Road; a mixed-use building proposed for the Park N Shop.
Members of the city council and planning commission met for a rare joint session last week – the first step in a renewed effort to engage in long-range planning for the city’s future.
Members of both boards expressed a need to examine how the planned expansion of the University of Delaware’s student population will affect development in the city and expressed concern over what they described as their own tendency to take a hands-off approach to land-use planning.
“It feels like much of what goes on in the city is reactive, not proactive,” Councilwoman Jen Wallace said. “We are not doing enough planning. By planning, I mean really long-range planning.”
Planning Commissioner Bob Stozek said that approach surprised him when he joined the board.
“I thought we were going to do some actual planning for the city, to say this area of the city we want to set aside for single-family houses, some parkland, to build neighborhoods, rather than just build one apartment complex after another,” Stozek said.
Jeremy Firestone, chair of the planning commission, said there are some areas of the city that may be appropriate for higher density development. However, he continued, that should come as the result of a holistic conversation, not a piecemeal process initiated by developers seeking to have a particular property rezoned.
“I think we need to step back and start thinking about what areas within the city might be amenable and appropriate to change in the comprehensive plan, rather than having it driven by a single proposal,” Firestone said. “Then another developer comes forward and says, ‘Well you approved it for that one, you should approve it for me,’ and it’s sort of a domino effect without an opportunity to engage the public more broadly,” Firestone said.
Other concerns raised included a lack of housing for families and seniors, infrastructure that is unable to keep up with development and what happens to older rental properties as students move to the newer, more desirable apartment complexes being built on and around Main Street.
UD’s expansion plans loom large
The elephant in the room – as it often is in Newark – was the University of Delaware.
UD recently announced an aggressive plan to expand its student population, adding more than 1,000 undergraduates over five years and doubling the roughly 4,000 graduate students. With the influx of students comes the need to find room to house them.
The following projects are making their way through the city’s development process:
1119 S. College Ave: New hotel, convenience store and gas station to replace the Red Roof Inn
0 Independence Way: 44 townhouses on a vacant lot
30 Benny St.: 11 townhouses to replace existing rental homes
36 Benny St.: seven townhouses to replace an existing rental home
275 S. Main St.: 12 apartments and additional retail space in the Park N Shop
92 E. Main St.: 15 apartments and first-floor retail space to replace to the old Abbott’s Shoe Repair building
1365 Marrows Road: A new car rental facility on a vacant lot next to KFC
0 Paper Mill Road: 18 new single-family homes on a vacant lot
67-69 New London Road: Two townhouses to replace existing home
46 Welsh Tract Road: 22 townhouses on a lot that currently contains one home
1501 Casho Mill Road: 60 apartments, plus office and retail space, to replace the current office building
924 Barksdale Road: 112-unit assisted living and memory care facility on a vacant lot
515 Capitol Trail: 10 townhouses to replace one single-family home