Coun­cil ap­proves ho­tel project

Mar­riott to open next year

Newark Post - - Front Page - By KARIE SIM­MONS ksim­mons@ches­pub.com

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.

Stephen Kessler, 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.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

An artist’s ren­der­ing shows the five-story ho­tel that will be built on the cor­ner of Li­brary Av­enue and Ogle­town Road.

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