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Newark City Council defies planning commission, parking subcommittee in rejecting development plan

Courtesy of Danneman Firm
The original design of the redevelopment proposed for Main Street

An effort to massively expand a commercial building on Newark’s Main Street hit another roadblock, after Newark City Council rejected a parking waiver that would have allowed the redevelopment project to go forward.

The property owner, George Danneman, originally proposed a 10-story hotel and parking garage for the building that once housed Margarita Pizza, but scaled that back to a five-story, mixed-use building made up of apartments and retail space. 

The proposal would have required a parking waiver for 67 spaces. In exchange, the property owner offered to lease the 14 remaining parking spaces to the City for 99 years, free of charge. 

Danneman’s team argues the reduced parking would work, since the project is student-focused. 

“Students being the likely target audience for this building, it would make sense that if they desire to bring a car, that those cars could be parked at the various university parking lots that surround us,” said John Tracey, an attorney for Danneman, at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Newark's Planning Commission approved the parking waiver last month. City planning director Mary Ellen Gray said Monday that the project’s approach to parking would discourage car use downtown, and aligns with recommendations from a parking subcommittee that the City adopted in 2019. 

But some council members—and Mayor Jerry Clifton—rejected this.

“If we think that cars are going to evaporate, I think we’re really deceiving ourselves,” Clifton said. 

Council voted 4-3 to reject the parking waiver, which made the project’s site plan approval and special use permit also on Monday’s agenda moot. 

“I don’t believe it will improve the character of the central [business district] and I think it will  negatively impact the development patterns of the central business district with the increased traffic,” said Councilman Chris Hamilton, who voted against the waiver. 

Councilman Jay Bancroft was among those who supported it.

“I’m in agreement with the previous rulings by the parking and planning commissions and appreciate the environmental aspects of this proposal,”  Bancroft said. 

Under city code, Danneman cannot ask for another parking waiver for the property for two years. George Danneman did not respond to a request for comment Monday. 


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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