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5/5/2008
Planned shopping center to get third revision

Planned shopping center to get third revision

Developer of Concord Pike center responding to input 
By ANGIE BASIOUNY • The News Journal • May 5, 2008 

THE SHOPPES AT BRANDYWINE VALLEY
LOCATION: Southwest corner of Concord Pike and Beaver Valley Road
SIZE: 43 acres
OWNER: Woodlawn Trustees Inc. of Wilmington, a nonprofit that develops selected parcels to raise money for affordable rental housing in the city and preservation of parkland along the Brandywine.
DEVELOPER: Stoltz Real Estate Partners of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.
PROPOSED ANCHOR STORE: Whole Foods

A developer is going back to the drawing board for the third time to revise plans for a shopping center on Concord Pike that will be anchored by a Whole Foods supermarket.

The initial designs for the Shoppes at Brandywine Valley were criticized by New Castle County officials, nearby businesses and residents concerned about how another retail project would affect the heavily traveled corridor.

Stoltz Real Estate Partners, the Bala Cynwyd, Pa.-based developer, said it wants to create a walkable town center with a mix of commercial and residential spaces.

It asked to reschedule a public hearing set for Tuesday before the New Castle County Planning Board. It also is rescheduling a Thursday meeting with the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, which planned to hold a panel discussion on the merits of the project.

"Over the last few weeks, since we introduced the Shoppes at Brandywine Valley plan, we've been talking to residents and county and state officials," said Tom Gailey, a company spokesman. "They've made comments. We've listened and we're going to make revisions."

That decision pleases New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner, who has been a vocal opponent since the first plan was filed with the county last year.

"I'm hoping the third revision will finally reflect both the spirit and the letter of the law that we've adopted here," he said, referring to the county's comprehensive plan, which encourages the building of mixed-use, high-density urban centers in areas with access to public transportation and existing infrastructure.

The original plan for the Shoppes at Brandywine Valley was strictly commercial -- nearly 200,000 square feet of retail space, with Whole Foods taking up 62,350 square feet.

The plan also featured New Jersey-style left turns -- known as "jug handles" -- to accommodate traffic. The idea was unpopular with the public and the county's Department of Land Use, which rejected the plan.

Stoltz came back last month with a second proposal to reduce the amount of retail and add office space, a park-and-ride lot and 36 apartments.But Land Use planners said the new attempt to create a pedestrian-friendly village fell short."

This site can accommodate and, to make full use of the mixed-use concept, should have a more pronounced residential presence," planners wrote in their review.

The land currently is zoned suburban and would have to be rezoned for commercial use.While council members must say yes to all development plans that are compliant with state and county laws, they have discretion on whether to approve rezonings. And rezonings must occur before the land-use process can move forward.

Weiner said he will not vote to rezone the project if the design doesn't improve. He would like to see a real town center, with a day care, pharmacy and other amenities.

"We want to make a paradigm shift from suburban sprawl to places where people can live where they shop, work and play. Where they don't always have to get into their cars," he said. "There is an opportunity here."

Weiner pointed to Bayberry near Middletown and Renaissance Village in Claymont as two mixed-use centers that already have gotten approval from the county.

"We have only a few imaginative developers and design firms in Delaware, and to their credit some of them are boldly going where none have gone before," Weiner said. "If you want to get the benefits of greater density that come with mixed use, you have to get with the program."

Chuck Landry, president of the Council of Civic Organizations of Brandywine Hundred, said the group is holding back its opinion on the Concord Pike project until it sees the next revision.

"I hope that at least part of what Stoltz is doing is an attempt to respond to our concerns and develop a better plan," he said. "Let's see what happens."

Gailey said Stoltz hopes to revise the plans in 30 to 60 days.

The Shoppes at Brandywine Valley is among five projects the company is undertaking that promise to transform the northern end of the county.

The four other projects are in Greenville and include redevelopment of Barley Mill Plaza, the former DuPont Co. office campus on Lancaster Pike, and the addition of a 12-story mid-rise near Greenville Manor.

Gailey said Stoltz doesn't consider the problems with the Concord Pike project as a setback.

"Stoltz believes very strongly in New Castle County, in Delaware and in the projects that have been proposed," he said. "We think they will have short- and long-term benefits."

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

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