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11/21/2007
Claymont's Brookview Apartment Demolition Begins

Councilman Bob Weiner, who helped spearhead the Claymont Renaissance process commencing in 2000, was pleased and proud to see the community's vision for a new beginning take a great leap forward as visually evidenced by the recent commencement of Brookview Apartments' demolition. When Councilman Weiner first proposed Brookview's demolition and its replacement with a traditional neighborhood design transit oriented mixed use walkable village with a large component of workforce housing, critics scoffed at the likelihood of such a reality. "The demolition process is clear evidence that our community's long planning process is succeeding", he said.

Construction workers begin tearing down the buildings at Brookview Townhomes.
Demolition of Brookview Townhomes begins
Renaissance Village planned for site

By Jesse Chadderdon
Staff Reporter

Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2007

When Jo Galloway and her new husband moved into the newly-opened Brookview Townhomes, it was the place to be in Claymont.

That was in the early 1950s.

Today vacant and abandoned buildings stand in the way of progress - but not for much longer.

On Tuesday, crews began demolishing the condemned townhomes off of Darley Road, drawing cheers from more than 70 onlookers, including lawmakers, Claymont business owners and even former residents like Galloway.

"It's time," Galloway said. "I'm sorry it went into such disrepair but I won't say it's a sad day because I'm so excited for what they have planned here."

What's planned for the 66-acre site, once the rubble is cleared, is Renaissance Village, a mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented project County Executive Chris Coons called the single largest redevelopment project in Brandywine Hundred in the last 40 years.

The project will feature retail and commercial units fronting Philadelphia Pike and more than 1,200 residential units - some single family, some townhomes, some apartments. Twenty percent of those units will be designated as workforce units, with rent controls or purchase price caps dictated by New Castle County. Many of the affordable units will cost less than $170,000.

"Brookview was a place where people got a start in life and that's what people are going to be able to do in Renaissance Village," said Councilman John Cartier (D-Penny Hill). "We're here to say to this county's teachers, paramedics, police and other workers that you're welcome in Claymont."

During the last 20 years, Brookview had fallen into disrepair. George Loss, president of the Claymont Community Coalition, said the 633-unit community had become a haven for drugs and other illegal activities.

"This has been a big problem for us for a few decades now, so I'm glad to see this come down," he said. "This is an important step forward for Claymont."

The Commonwealth-Setting Group purchased the property for $32 million in 2005 after reaching a development agreement with the county that guaranteed them sewer capacity in exchange for a commitment to include the affordable housing units.

Commonwealth-Setting then worked with the county to help relocate more than 400 residents living in the community. In the last several months, crews have been removing asbestos from the units, digging up underground storage tanks and preparing the townhomes for demolition.

Project Manager Don Robitzer said he expected demolition to last for the next three to four months. He expects new roads and sidewalks to be built next Summer, with the first construction of new units likely in the Fall of 2008.

Brett Saddler, who heads the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation, said he can't wait.

"This is going to be the cornerstone of a revitalized Claymont," he said. "I expect Renaissance Village to be an example, not only for the redevelopment of the older suburban areas of New Castle County, but for the entire state as well."

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