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Redevelopment of former Evraz steel mill site discussed

 Xerxes WIlson, The News Journal 10:18 a.m. EDT May 21, 2015

Claymont residents got a closer look at the plans and potential hurdles for the redevelopment of the former Evraz Claymont Steel mill Thursday night.

More than 200 people packed the conference room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Brandywine Hundred. Some questions focused on whether the development's ambitious port plan could receive the blessing of state regulators.

The developer, Commercial Development Co. of St. Louis, has said its vision for an office, manufacturing and transit hub at the former steel mill site could bring as many as 5,000 jobs to the area.

The plan is divided into four sections. A 30-acre corporate center with some 600,000 square feet of office space would sit near where I-95 and I-495 converge. That center would be connected by trails to a new, 12-acre transit center, which would replace the existing Amtrak station with a brick building and 600-passenger platform.

The so-called First State Employment Center would straddle Philadelphia Pike with 41 acres of manufacturing, research and warehouse space.

A new internal roadway would connect Naamans Road to Philadelphia Pike and the riverfront, where developers hope to situate a port facility. Plans call for 1 mile of bulkhead and space for a dry dock.

"We have lost too many manufacturing jobs in this state, and it is a shame that you will find some people here that don't want anything changed. They see any intrusion to our Coastal Zone Act as one too many," said resident Mark Willis.

Steve Collins, executive vice president of CDC, said some aspects of the proposal may require some exemption from the state's 43-year-old Coastal Zone Act, which bans heavy industry and bulk loading terminals along the Delaware River.

"One reason we wanted to put it out in front of you is that you could have that discussion," Collins said. "It is true some of the neighboring states, whether it is Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been more lenient. I think the state of Delaware realizes that if they want to see the economic development, this is something that has to be considered."

Collins said no regulatory proposals have been made yet. The company is currently seeking a preliminary blessing from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and state regulators to move forward. Then there will be a study commissioned to determine the economic feasibility of either a bulk or container port. That study also will determine what regulatory blessings are required, Collins said.

"We want to make sure there is public acceptance and a market demand for it. We are not the only port. ... We have to make sure there is demand for the investment," Collins said.

The site is currently in the demolition phase, which will last for another 18 months. Collins said the company hopes to have a handle on the environmental aspects of the site within three years.

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

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