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8/5/2005
Brookview to get new villagelike atmosphere

No car needed in this proposed community

BY ANGIE BASIOUNY / The News Journal
08/05/2005

The Delaware real estate company Commonwealth Group confirmed Thursday that it has purchased Brookview Apartments, a low-rent housing complex in Claymont that will be converted into a pedestrian-friendly village as part of the area's revitalization.

Terms of the sale for the land along Philadelphia Pike were not released, although the property was listed for $31 million. The transaction was not filed Thursday with the New Castle County Record of Deeds.

The purchase is a joint venture with Setting Properties, whose principal is Delaware businessman Joseph Setting.

Work is set to begin next summer to create up to 1,200 residential units, shops, schools and restaurants. Preliminary plans call for a mix of dwellings in the $160,000 to $450,000 price range.

"What attracted us is the ability to do something completely different with a property that we thought was very significant to northern Delaware," said Bob Ruggio, of the Commonwealth Group. "All the right things are there for a great community."

The buyers hired architecture firm Torti Gallas and Partners to conduct public workshops this week while formulating a design for the redevelopment. "Traditional neighborhood design," as the style is called, creates old-fashioned settings where neighbors walk rather than drive. The goal is to place amenities within a five-minute walk from home.

The firm Thursday narrowed the designs to three. The choice will be announced today.

"It is the community's hope that we can build a safe, aesthetically pleasing, pedestrian-oriented community where residents and visitors alike can live, shop, work, play, pray and school their children without always having to use their cars," said New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner, a leader in the five-year revitalization effort.

The buyers said they will work with the county to help find replacement housing for Brookview's 450 tenants.

Brookview was a model community when it opened in 1952, but has fallen into severe disrepair. Residents complain of problems with mold, insects, rats, vandalism, crime and maintenance.

The complex was sold by private owner Jan Clark. A majority of the tenants do not receive public assistance but are low-income.

"I'm very pleased with the sale, and I would love to see new housing over there be made available to the tenants," said Nora Losse with the Claymont Community Coalition. "The people living in Brookview have been taken advantage of because of the conditions they've been living in and they're still paying rent."

Ruggio said the company wants to be a good neighbor and hopes many of the residents find new homes in the redevelopment.

The tenants "were very important to us because they were going to be with us for at least two years, and that's what makes them so valuable," he said. "It's truly a partnership here, and I think they are accepting it that way."

Members of the Brookview Tenants Council issued a statement: "We have enjoyed a very positive and productive relationship with Commonwealth Group, and we do look forward to a better quality of life for our Brookview residents as well as the town of Claymont."

Work is set to being next summer with a target completion date of 2012.

Brett Saddler, president of the nonprofit Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., said he's confident the result will be impressive.

"Fellow Delawareans will be proud to have the Claymont community as the gateway for many into northern Delaware," he said.

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

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