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7/22/2016
Wilmington University best choice for Concord Pike site - News Journal Opinion

The idea of a traffic mitigation agreement was developed in 2000 by Councilman Bob Weiner, who is now sponsoring the ordinance that would allow the university to eventually develop three buildings with 200,000 square feet on 19 of the site’s 41 acres. 
 
 
Harry Themal 
1:07 p.m. EDT July 22, 2016

New Castle County Council is expected to approve a rarely used traffic waiver to allow Wilmington University to proceed with plans for a new campus in Brandywine Hundred. Involved is a 41-acre site on the busy southwest intersection of the Concord Pike with Naamans Road and Beaver Valley Road.

For only the fourth time in a 15-plus-year-old ordinance that allows exceptions to traffic standards, the council will probably agree to a traffic mitigation agreement with the university.

That agreement places some tight restrictions on how much traffic the university can add to an already heavily used intersection and imposes high penalties if those standards are exceeded. The Delaware Department of Transportation has signed off on the waiver.

The idea of a traffic mitigation agreement was developed in 2000 by Councilman Bob Weiner, who is now sponsoring the ordinance that would allow the university to eventually develop three buildings with 200,000 square feet on 19 of the site’s 41 acres.

Its owners, Woodlawn Trustees, for farming, have rented the land over the years. Stoltz Real Estate Partners had hoped to use the land for a shopping center (across the highway from Concord Mall), a hotel, and homes – and idea that was met with firm opposition and was eventually withdrawn in 2007.

Mitigation has been used in the past decade and a half only to allow the construction of the Astra Zeneca complex, expansion of Christiana Hospital and for then-planned work at the DuPont Experimental Station.

Wilmington University will be required to guarantee that no more than 85 percent of university students and employees will be arriving in single-occupancy cars during morning and evening peak traffic periods, but will use ride-sharing and public transportation where possible. An independent semi-annual audit of traffic will be conducted backed by a large performance bond if the quotas are not met.

In the resolution, council points out that the staggered hours of operation, vacation schedules and the agreement commitments should “not generate traffic during the busy holiday season when traffic on the U. S. 202 corridor in the vicinity of the projected is most congested.“

As it is built out over the years the private university expects to have 1,000 students and 250 faculty and administrative jobs. The council resolution cites its location in a designated “infill” growth zone where infrastructure is readily available.

Anyone who has waited for the traffic light at the intersection to change within the 55-second limit for a failed intersection can attest to that problem during holiday sales time. Yet this still seems the best possible use for a large site just waiting to be developed. I hope I don’t regret that endorsement when I’m in a future traffic jam.

There’s also a bit of Brandywine Hundred history on the site. At the corner of Beaver Valley and Thompson Bridge Roads stands the Four Square School, one of the last one-room school buildings still standing in Delaware. The site was bought from the Talley family in 1889 and an octagonal school building (hence the name Four Square) was built and opened in 1895, The stucco building now there is not the original but still goes back more than a century.

Its use as District 6, a one-teacher school, ended in 1930 when it was consolidated into the former Alfred I. du Pont Elementary School a few miles down the Concord Pike. The acre around the school was sold to Woodlawn Trustees for $1,400. Wilmington University has promised to keep the historic building and possibly find some public use.

Another one-room school that closed in 1939 and sent its children to Alfred I. Elementary School was the Forwood School, built just before the turn of the 18th Century. It stands decrepitly along Silverside Road and is the focus of some dispute about what will happen to it and the land around it.

Harry Themal has written a News Journal column since 1989.

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Latest News:
3/26/2018
  Wilmington University will repair historic Red Barn on Concord Pike
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  Wilmington University agrees to fix red barn on Concord Pike sooner than previously stated
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  New Castle County Councilman Bob Weiner: 'I feel duped' over Wilmington University's treatment of historic barn
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