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Officials cautiously optimistic about plans for closed Claymont steel mill

Delaware Public Media

An office park, a manufacturing and warehouse center, a new commuter rail station, and maybe even a port, rail and trucking hub – all these project could become part of the First State Crossing redevelopment plan proposed for the now dormant 425-acre Evraz Steel Mill in Claymont.

Commercial Development Company, based in St. Louis, Mo., has developed the plan and will outline it to area residents at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 20, in a presentation at the Crowne Plaza Wilmington North, 630 Naamans Road, Claymont.

Officials who have gotten an early look at the proposal have been cautiously positive in their reactions.

“When you’re talking about a 100-year-old steel mill, it’s kind of hard to propose anything that’s worse,” says New Castle County Councilman John Cartier, whose district includes Claymont.

“We had a defunct steel mill. Now we’re going to have, in a worst-case scenario, a cleaned-up steel mill,” says John DeCostanza, chairman of Claymont’s Design Review Advisory Committee, a group that advises county planners on land-use issues in the community. “It’s substantial and pretty noteworthy,” he adds, saying he’s impressed that the developers “say they’re not going to move forward on speculation, that they’re going to wait until they have some leases signed [before the build].”

Both Cartier and Brett Saddler, executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corporation, are hopeful that the projects will lead to well-paying jobs for Claymont residents, generate additional traffic for existing Claymont businesses and trigger a revitalization of the aging Tri-State Mall, located at the intersection of Naamans Road and Interstate 95, northwest of the steel mill site.

Key components of the CDC plan include:

  • The First State Corporate Center, a 30-acre campus with 600,000 square feet of office buildings  where I-95 and I-495 meet and cross Naamans Creek.
  • The First State Employment Center, 99 acres on both sides of Philadelphia Pike, with research and office uses on one side and manufacturing, warehouse and logistics uses on the other. This portion of the project could provide about 600 jobs. A new roadway would link Philadelphia Pike and Naamans Road, and the current industrial streetscape on Philadelphia Pike would be replaced with attractive streetscapes, pedestrian walks, bike lanes, bus stops and landscaping. Fitness trails and park areas would be developed along Naamans Creek.
  • A 12-acre transit center would include a new commuter rail station with 600-foot-long passenger platforms, 650 parking spaces, bus connections and easy access to both Philadelphia Pike and Naamans Road.
  • The First State Logistics Center, fronting on the Delaware River, would include a mile-long bulkhead and railroad spurs to permit sea, rail and land-based shipping operations.
  • CDC and an affiliated company, Environmental Liability Transfer Inc., have begun environmental remediation to prepare the site for the redevelopment plan. Demolition of existing structures, soil and groundwater remediation, oversight of contamination abatement and related activities are expected to take about two years.

Residents should not anticipate immediate changes, Cartier said, noting that the 70-acre Darley Green redevelopment project, which began with the razing of the old Brookview Apartments complex in 2007, is still in progress.
“This process could take over a decade…. This is a 425-acre site. A lot of work has to go on,” he said.

Cartier said he would host regular meetings to keep residents updated on the project, which is likely to require approvals from numerous agencies, including the county Land Use Department, the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control and Department of Transportation and the federal Army Corps of Engineers.

Larry Nagengast, a contributor to Delaware First Media since 2011, has been writing and editing news stories in Delaware for more than five decades.