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9/18/2009
Claymont's Darley Green opens its first doors. Weiner's vision of a new walkable village is now a reality. - News Journal

"It feels like I've had a 10-year pregnancy and finally given birth," New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner joked. "We did it despite all of the doubters. This puts Claymont on the map."  Weiner joined a group of plucky residents who were the original architects of the 1990s dream to infuse Claymont with something new. But there was much to overcome, starting with finding a buyer who would go the distance on an ambitious project.

Darley Green opens its first doors
Development has sold 13 of 18 units
BY ANGIE BASIOUNY • THE NEWS JOURNAL • SEPTEMBER 18, 2009

CLAYMONT -- The model town house in the up-and-coming urban village of Darley Green is so bright and modern that it's hard to remember the rundown homes that used to be on the 66-acre site.

Granite countertops, catalog-ready furnishings and sunlight streaming through palladium windows make a sharp contrast from the dank, dilapidated Brookview apartments.

"If you look at what was here before and what is here now, this is like night and day," said Claymont resident and business owner Cathy Imburgia. "This is the boost that this community has needed."

Hopes are high for Darley Green, a project 10 years in the making that celebrated a milestone Thursday with the opening of the first 18 homes. When the final phase is completed years from now, Darley Green will be a walkable town center with a mix of 1,226 homes and 50,000-plus square feet of commercial space.

Touted as key to Claymont's revitalization, the project is the first of its kind in Delaware and highlights a growing trend of "new urbanism" as many shift away from the suburbs in favor of city-style neighborhoods with close-by amenities.

"It feels like I've had a 10-year pregnancy and finally given birth," New Castle County Councilman Robert Weiner joked. "We did it despite all of the doubters. This puts Claymont on the map."

Weiner joined a group of plucky residents who were the original architects of the 1990s dream to infuse Claymont with something new. But there was much to overcome, starting with finding a buyer who would go the distance on an ambitious project.

Enter the Commonwealth Group. The Wilmington developers purchased Brookview in 2005 for $32 million. Just as things were looking up, the real estate market tanked. Commonwealth tried to sell, but with no takers committed to seeing it through.

Now, 13 of the 18 units have sold and construction on eight more is set to begin in weeks.

Don Robitzer, Commonwealth's chief operating officer and project head, said they have been patiently riding the wave of a bad economy. The three- and four-bedroom town houses are selling in the mid-$200,000. That's a price point that still has traction in the market, he said.

It is the first development to have an "inclusionary zoning" agreement with the county, meaning 10 percent of the units must be sold at below-market rates. The developers are also first to receive a form of public financing called Tax Increment Financing. County Council voted last year to allow the sale of up to $20 million in bonds to be paid to Commonwealth as reimbursement for infrastructure costs. The additional property tax gained as the value of the site increases will go to pay off the bond. Once the bond is paid, taxes revert back to county coffers.

Brett Saddler, Claymont Renaissance Development Corp. director, said Darley Green gives the community the lift it needs to move ahead.

"We know the redevelopment of this site and the 3,000 new residents it will bring to Claymont will facilitate change," he said. "This is the future."

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

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