Failure to build
the planned Claymont branch library in Darley Green would be a
blow to "the most ambitious redevelopment project New Castle
County has seen in its history," according to Donald Robitzer,
senior vice president of Commonwealth Group, the firm that is
constructing the large residential and commercial project.
"We still need the
support of Council and the county [government] to make this a
town center," he told County Council's community services
committee after Keelin Fry, treasurer of the Friends of the
Claymont Library, made a strong pitch for putting the facility
on the site of the long-closed Children's Home on Green Street.
executive director of Claymont Renaissance Development Corp.,
backed up Robitzer by saying that the library would be "more
than just a building" but a key component of the planned new
community which, in turn, is "something that is going to take
expressing a preference for a site, Councilman John Cartier
called for quickly resolving the issue. Getting construction
underway not only would provide a future amenity but would, in
the short term, provide needed jobs in the community, he said.
acting chief financial officer, told the meeting on Jan. 25 that
county government has federal money in hand through the
'recovery zone' stimulus program to finance its share of the
cost of constructing the library. He did not give a specific
figure, but said it could cover both construction and, if
necessary, acquiring a site. On the other hand, the money has to
be spent within the next two years or be forfeit, he said.
State government is
committed to provide part of the capital cost and the Friends
organization would raise some. Fry said it has commitments for
grants from Longwood and Welfare Foundations.
offered to donate sufficient land in the commercial core of
Darley Green along an extension of Manor Avenue west of
Philadelphia Pike for a 17,000-square-foot library, which is the
size a consultant's 'needs assessment' said is needed. The Green
Street site, on the other hand, would have to be purchased from
the Catholic diocese. A price apparently has yet to be
Fry maintained that
the Green Street site would be preferable because the 13-acre
property would enable the library to be situated in a park-like
Also at issue would
be patron parking. Robitzer talked of providing a parking garage
under the library. He explained it would not be subterranean but
part of an elevated structure.
He also indicated
that construction of Darley Green's commercial section is likely
to get started in the relatively near future. "The market is
beginning to open up," he said. Meanwhile, the project has
bucked somewhat the real estate slump. There have been 54
townhouse units on the Darley Road side of the project sold
during the past 15 months, he said. People are now living in
that section of the project.
controversy broke out several months ago when, as Delaforum then
reported, the Department of Community Services backed away from
accepting the Commonwealth offer. Anne Farley, who has just been
replaced as general manager of the department, has appeared
since then to be supporting the Green Street site.
Attending her last
Council committee meeting, she did not state a preference, but
referred to having to decide between two apparently acceptable
proposals as "a good [kind of] problem to have."
Speaking on behalf
of County Executive Paul Clark's office, Nicole Majeski told the
committee that the administration "has been evaluating both
sites," but did not indicate when a decision might be
Farley said that, although the decision lies with the executive
branch, County Council will have a say to the extent that it
must approve purchasing property or accepting a donation of a
property. That action, however, would, by definition, take place
after the decision has been made.
Delaforum could not
determine what, if any, role the library issue played in
Farley's being replaced. Clark announced it as her "retirement"
and said she had "agreed to help us out" in the future. She
responded to a Delaforum question before the committee meeting
by saying that she "didn't know I was ready to retire." Cartier,
however, pointed out that naming key operating officials is a
normal prerogative of a new administration. Department general
managers serve 'at the pleasure of' the county executive.