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3/1/2007
Empty Brookview offered for sale

Rebuilding plan remains, officials say
By ANGIE BASIOUNY, The News Journal
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2007

The former Brookview Apartments, a dilapidated Claymont complex slated for razing and redevelopment, is being sold by the developers who purchased it in 2005.

New Castle County officials, who helped fast-track plans to rebuild the 67-acre complex, said the sale will not change plans for the now-vacant apartments to be knocked down and replaced by a pedestrian-friendly village with a mix of housing and commercial space.

The project has long been billed as the centerpiece of Claymont's revitalization and has received support from residents and elected leaders.

"We're not deviating from the plan," said County Councilman John Cartier, whose district includes the property off Philadelphia Pike. "We've worked hard and wanted this site to be an example of new-urbanist, infill redevelopment. We're not going to surrender one aspect of that."

Wilmington-based developers Commonwealth Group and Setting Properties purchased Brookview for about $31 million in July 2005. They immediately began work to rezone the property, getting approval for higher-than-usual density to allow 1,226 multifamily dwellings.

Cartier said council is expected to vote in March or April on the record plan, which is the final stage of any project before construction can begin.

"We understood from the beginning that Commonwealth-Setting were going to pursue this to record plan," he said. "It's not a total shock. We understood that others would come in and actually build it."

Neither developer could be reached for comment Wednesday.

The property, renamed Renaissance Village, is listed online in a nationwide search with Ideal Realty Group, a commercial arm of Coldwell Banker real estate.

Cartier said the asking price is about $52 million for the whole parcel, which may be sold off in pieces. He did not know what offers had been received by Wednesday's deadline.

Although it is possible for a buyer to purchase the property, throw out the land-use plan and start over with a new design, officials said it is highly unlikely.

"Not a chance," Councilman Robert Weiner said. "Nobody would put down $52 million on 67 acres, betting to get the plan changed. The land is only worth $8 million to $10 million."

Weiner said a developer would have to go through extraordinary trouble and expense and risk the ire of the community to revise the plan.

"It wouldn't make good business sense, it wouldn't make good political sense, it wouldn't make good fiscal sense -- and the community and elected officials wouldn't permit it," he said.

What makes the land appealing to buyers, Cartier said, is that they would not have to endure a lengthy land-use process and could start building right away.

The county and the developers signed a binding agreement last year requiring 10 percent of the housing to be designated as "work force housing," meaning the units will be sold below market value.

That agreement will remain in place with the new buyer, said C.R. McLeod, spokesman for County Executive Chris Coons.

Brett Saddler is the executive director of the nonprofit Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., which has been working with the county, residents and Commonwealth-Setting on the project. He said there was an understanding since the beginning that the developers would sell the land once the record plan was approved.

He also said residents need not worry that the urban village concept will be dumped.

"It's an already-wrapped gift for the buyer," he said, "because everything is done."

Contact Angie Basiouny at 324-2796 or abasiouny@delawareonline.com

 

New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner said the Brookview Apartments in Claymont was worth $8 million to $10 million five years ago, before the 67-acre plot was improved through the land-use process. The land sold for $32 million in 2005 and has gained additional value since then, he said. His comments were incomplete in an article in Thursday's Local section

 

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