Newark approves hotel, restaurant near downtown
Special from the Newark Post
— Local developer George Danneman will soon begin building a hotel and restaurant on the corner of Library Avenue and Ogletown Road after receiving council’s approval for the project Monday night.
The plan includes a fivestory Marriott SpringHill Suites hotel with 125 rooms, an indoor pool, fitness center, market, business library and a 100-seat standalone restaurant on a parcel of land that has been owned by Danneman’s family since 1976. The site sits next to the Aetna Hose, Hook and Ladder Co. fire station and across from the U.S. Post Office and was most recently leased to Newark Toyota World before the dealership moved to Cleveland Avenue in 2014.
Since then, Danneman has been trying to decide how to develop the property and recently settled on the hotel plan. He has spent the last three months walking the project through the city’s approval process, starting with the Board of Adjustment, then the Planning Commission and, finally, bringing the project to council, which gave Danneman the green light
to start construction by a vote of 5-2.
Although the project was approved, each board that reviewed the plan imposed conditions on the developer.
In March, the Board of Adjustment cut Danneman some slack after his plan came up short in the number of spaces provided for hotel guests, restaurant customers and employees. City code required 175 spaces, but Danneman only had enough room for 140 spaces. As a condition of the parking variance, he offered to secure offsite parking for 16 employees and promised the hotel would provide a shuttle service to and from the lot.
Next, the project received a positive recommendation from the Planning Commission, despite several members’ concerns about parking during high-volume weekends at the University of Delaware like graduation, Alumni Weekend and homecoming.
The board was also worried about cars turning in and out of the hotel, as were DelDOT officials who reviewed the project.
In a report issued to the planning department, DelDOT expressed concerns about the left turn out of the hotel onto Ogletown Road. DelDOT also saw the right turn out of the property onto Capitol Trail as a safety issue in that drivers trying to reach Cleveland Avenue may attempt to cut across the lanes of eastbound Capitol Trail.
The commission amended the plan 4-2 to prohibit left turns out of the hotel onto eastbound Ogletown Road and changed the access off Capitol Trail to an entrance only. The board also required that Danneman work with DelDOT to come up with possible pedestrian safety improvements at the intersections, although the developer does not have to follow through with any of the recommendations.
On Monday night, a few members of the public urged council to impose the commission’s recommended conditions on the project as well as require the developer to secure overflow parking for customers.
Resident John Morgan said he doesn’t think the hotel’s parking lot will be enough during major events at the university and suggested the developer work with Aetna to use its lot during peak times. He said council should require that Danneman have a signed agreement with Aetna as a condition of overall site plan approval.
Resident Jean White was strongly against the left turn onto Ogletown Road, noting that drivers will have to cross four lanes of traffic in order to head eastbound. She added that the pedestrian crossings at the intersection are dangerous, even with the proper signals, crosswalks and an island.
“Some of these cars are just zooming by,” she said.
Councilman Mark Morehead also felt the pedestrian access to the site could be improved.
“I don’t think it’s the benefit it’s being presented as,” he said.
an attorney representing Danneman, argued that most guests aren’t going to be walking to and from the hotel or using the crosswalks to get to Main Street because the hotel will have a downtown shuttle.
“It may, from certain angles, not appear to be pedestrian-friendly,” he said, adding that the existing island near the right-hand turn lane from Ogletown Road onto Capitol Trail “is actually a plus.”
Councilman Stu Markham felt restricting the entrance and exits on the property was the best way to protect motorists and pedestrians traveling through the intersection.
“I would stick with the Planning Commission’s recommendation because there’s a lot that is going on in that intersection,” he said.
Council approved the special-use permit and major subdivision plan for the hotel and restaurant with the commission’s conditions by a vote of 5-2. Councilmembers Markham and Jen Wallace voted in opposition.
Danneman said he hopes to begin construction this summer, with a targeted opening date of May 2017.
An artist’s rendering shows the five-story hotel that will be built on the corner of Library Avenue and Ogletown Road.