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3/25/2011
Commonwealth Corp site choosen as site for Claymont library; Donated 7.5-acre property picked after lengthy debate - News Journal

Councilman Bob Weiner, who represented Claymont from 1996 to 2002, said the site chosen will make Claymont a more walkable community.

"One of the goals for Claymont was for residents to not to have to use an automobile to go to shop, work, play, pray or school your children," Weiner said.

County officials choose site for Claymont library
Donated 7.5-acre property picked after lengthy debate

Written by ADAM TAYLOR The News Journal 

A 7.5-acre property on the edge of the Darley Green development was chosen by New Castle County officials as the new site for the Claymont Library, which is considered an integral part of the community's revitalization effort.

The property will be given to the county by The Commonwealth Group, Darley Green's developers. Construction of the nearly $9 million library is expected to begin in the fall and completed by summer 2012, county Community Services General Manager Marcus Henry said.

The county's goal is to create a library similar to the Woodlawn Library in Wilmington, with a park-like setting and room for a reading garden. The property on Darley Road is considered a compromise site, County Executive Paul Clark said. Officials deliberated over multiple locations for more than a year.

"It may have taken a while to come to an agreement about a location, but it was worth the wait," Clark said. "In the end, I think we have a site that really works for everyone."

Clark, who took office in November, never had a specific property in mind, but wanted the library to be on Philadelphia Pike, Claymont's main drag. Commonwealth Group wanted to donate a 1.2-acre property in the middle of Darley Green to make the library the centerpiece of the development of townhouses, apartments and commercial and retail space. Friends of Claymont Library wanted the county to buy the vacant Children's Home on Green Street from the Diocese of Wilmington.

A suitable site on Philadelphia Pike was never identified.

The smaller Darley Green site wasn't acceptable to the county because of concerns about the lack of future expansion space, the lack of a tree-lined outdoor reading area, and concerns that the library could wind up in the middle of nowhere if the construction market tanked and Darley Green was never completely built, said Councilman John Cartier.

The Children's Home would have been too expensive, particularly because there was an offer from Commonwealth for a free property, county spokeswoman Angie Basiouny said. The Children's Home could have cost the county nearly $900,000 to purchase.

The Darley Road site is on the edge of the Darley Green development, within walking distance of a DART bus stop and will have more parking than other proposed locations, Basiouny said. It's also near Woodshaven Kruse Park, the Claymont Stone School and the Darley House. The Darley House will soon be home to the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., the Claymont Historical Society and the Claymont Business Owners' Association.

"With this proposed location, County Executive Paul Clark correctly balanced the economic development benefits to Claymont with the needs of the New Castle County Public Libraries patrons," said Brett Saddler, executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp., which opposed the Children's Home option.

Commonwealth Group Partner Don Robitzer said he would have preferred the library to have gone in the center of Darley Green, but was happy the county accepted the donation of the other location within the development.

"It's the obvious choice," Robitzer said. "It enhances our project, which is the center of Claymont's renaissance."

Residents began moving into Darley Green in October 2009. Forty-eight residential units are occupied and another 19 are under construction. When the 66-acre development is finished in five to seven years, there will be 1,226 housing units and about 67,000 square feet of commercial space. The total project is valued at about $300 million.

The $8.95 million for the library will be paid for with $4.8 million in county money, $3.4 million in state funds and around $750,000 in private money raised by the Friends of Claymont Library.

Friends of Claymont Library officials had said that it would be harder to raise money if the site was anywhere but the Children's Home, but group Secretary Keelin Fry said Thursday that the Darley Road site is "just as good."

"We're very enthusiastic about the selected site and we're definitely on board with raising the private money necessary to make this new facility happen," Fry said.

Cartier, whose district includes Claymont, initially preferred the Green Street site, but praised Clark's "creative solution" that seems to make nearly everyone happy.

"Now the Claymont community must stand shoulder to shoulder and raise the community matching funds," Cartier said. "We can focus on that goal now that we have a site selected."

Ruth Govatos of Friends of Claymont Stone School said she would have preferred a library on Philadelphia Pike.

"Nobody really got what they wanted," she said.

Councilman Bob Weiner, who represented Claymont from 1996 to 2002, said the site chosen will make Claymont a more walkable community.

"One of the goals for Claymont was for residents to not to have to use an automobile to go to shop, work, play, pray or school your children," Weiner said.

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