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WilmU to start building Concord Pike campus

"Wilmington University’s new Brandywine Hundred Campus will be a great gateway into Delaware and New Castle County from Pennsylvania," said Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area.  
Weiner: "Architecture and open space preservation will enhance national park open space, create trails and a gateway into Delaware."
Xerxes Wilson , The News Journal
Published 1:05 a.m. ET March 1, 2017 | Updated 11 hours ago

Wilmington University has been given the green light to move forward with building its Concord Pike campus.

New Castle County Council on Tuesday gave the university its final approvals, and Wendie Stabler, attorney for the university, said construction will begin later this spring on the new campus on a 41-acre field at Beaver Valley Road and Concord Pike in Brandywine Hundred.

The overall plan represents about a 10-year buildout and includes three buildings, each three stories tall. The first building will start going up in the coming months with a target of being ready to host students by September 2018, Stabler said.

The construction of the other two buildings will be timed as enrollment grows, Stabler said. The full-design of the campus will be equipped to handle up to 250 employees and 1,000 students. The university's Du Pont Highway campus near New Castle will remain the main campus and host top administrative offices.

"It will be a great gateway to Delaware and to New Castle County from Pennsylvania," said Councilman Bob Weiner, who represents the area.  

The buildings are designed to reflect both the university's traditional red-brick aesthetic as well as more natural hints of the Brandywine Valley using stone and glass, Stabler said. The three buildings will be situated around an existing wooded area and pond. 

A historic schoolhouse and barn will remain on the property, Stabler said. Parking will have the largest footprint in the development with 961 parking places in three lots set between each building and the surrounding roadways.  

The primary entrance will be off Beaver Valley Road to the north. There will a secondary entrance off Rocky Run Parkway to the south where a new Wawa and WSFS Bank branch is being built.

There will be no entrance to the campus off Concord Pike. An entrance off Thompsons Bridge Road may be built when the plan's third building goes up, Stabler said.

Open space advocates have criticized the plans on two fronts. First, they fear potential traffic impact and the change of aesthetic on Beaver Valley and Thompsons Bridge roads.

The plan for Wilmington University situates three buildings around a wooded area off Concord Pike. (Photo: WENDIE STABLER/SUBMITTED)

The university plans to buffer the campus from the roads by at least 100 feet along each right-of-way using a combination of bushes, trees and fencing, Stabler said.

Opponents have also criticized the sale of the land to Wilmington University from Woodlawn Trustees Inc., a Wilmington company whose mission includes land preservation along the Brandywine. While Woodlawn's mission is land preservation, it has been involved in commercial development along U.S. 202. The university is purchasing the parcel for $11 million.

The land is zoned for residential use. Churches and schools can be built on residential land so Tuesday's vote was discretional and merely marked the university meeting all the requirements in the county's development code. However, in July, the university was granted a waiver from the county's development rules regarding traffic. 

When projected traffic from a development pushes traffic congestion beyond acceptable levels at a nearby intersection, the developer is typically required to pay for sometimes expensive road improvements to allow the project to move forward. In the university's case, the intersection of Naamans Road and Concord Pike will be congested beyond acceptable levels under county rules.

Wendy Stabler, attorney representing Wilmington University. (Photo: Saul Ewing LLP)

To receive the waiver, the university had to agree to take steps to lessen its traffic impact during rush-hour times in mornings and evenings by 15 percent. Stabler said 85 percent of the facility's class times will be scheduled to avoid putting cars on the road during peak traffic hours.

The school also will provide students and employees real-time information about bus routes and transportation options other than cars. Stabler said the university will provide other incentives for those who come to school together or take transit and provide opportunities for employees to work remotely.

The university also must pay a bond to the state that can be tapped if efforts to reduce traffic burdens are not taken.

This field at the intersection of U.S. 202, Beaver Valley Road and Ramsey Road in Brandywine Hundred is the site for a planned expansion of Wilmington University. (Photo: ROBERT CRAIG/THE NEWS JOURNAL)

The university was also given a variance to allow for its planned building height.

The approval of the development plan marks the first successful attempt by someone to build on the empty tract along the busy section of Concord Pike.

The plot has been eyed by developers in the past as open space along Concord Pike becomes rarer. In 2007, Stoltz Real Estate Partners proposed a 237,000-square-foot mixed-use shopping center with a Whole Foods, 86 residences and 120-room hotel site on the plot. That proposal was eventually torpedoed by traffic concerns.

Contact Xerxes Wilson at (302) 324-2787 or Follow @Ber_Xerxes on Twitter.

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