Firm to guide Rodney project
Engineer hired to design proposed stormwater pond
The city of Newark has chosen a Maryland engineering firm to spearhead the development of a proposed stormwater pond on the University of Delaware’s Rodney dormitory site.
Council recently agreed to hire Johnson, Mirmiran, and Thompson (JMT) to do the work, which will focus on integrating a stormwater management pond along with park amenities and recreational facilities. In addition to design, environmental permitting and project management tasks, JMT will conduct a combination of public workshops and
outreach throughout the development process.
Headquartered in Maryland, JMT has been in business for 46 years and has offices in 35 cities across the country.
City officials have been eyeing Rodney for use as a stormwater pond since 2015, when UD announced it would shut down the dorm. Several large stormwater pipes meet under Rodney, and building a stormwater pond there would help relieve flooding on either side of the western area drainage ditch that runs from South Main Street to the Christina River south of Silverbrook. When the ditch overflows, it floods the Old Newark neighborhood, including Apple Road, Beverly Road and Dallas Avenue.
Possible features of the stormwater pond include a walking/jogging trail, outdoor classroom and amphitheater and an informational kiosk about stormwater management and history of the area.
Deputy Public Works Director Tim Filasky said the city is required to include an educational aspect, but officials haven’t decided yet what that will be.
“Having some sort of amenities will be important,” he said. “You don’t just want to dig a hole.”
In March, the city put down a $50,000 deposit on the 7.24-acre Hillside Road property and now has four years to make a final decision whether to go through with the purchase and can back out at any time. If the sale proceeds, the city can deduct up to $700,000 of the demolition and environmental remediation costs from the $2.1 million purchase price. In spring 2018, the city is expected to hold a referendum, seeking the public’s approval to take on debt to fund the total cost of stormwater project, which is estimated to be between $5.5 and $6 million, depending on estimated construc- tion costs.
Public Works Director Tom Coleman said it was important for the city to hire a specialized engineering firm partnered with an environmental consultant to lead city officials through the process of redeveloping a brownfield site, which he said the city doesn’t do very often.
“We don’t have the staff on hand to absorb the workload of a project like this and meet deadlines,” Coleman said.
The city anticipates utilizing State Revolving Loan Funds for the purchase and development of this project and has a deadline to have a binding letter of commitment for the loan before the end of the year in order to lock in favorable interest rates. The loan will pay for everything stormwater related – dorm demolition and pond construction – but cannot be used to fund any park-like amenities or recreation facilities.
Three firms – Whitman Requardt and Associates (WRA), AECOM and JMT – submitted project proposals that were reviewed by an evaluation committee consisting of Coleman, Community Affairs Officer Megan McNerney and Deputy City Manager Andrew Haines. The firms recently gave oral presentations on their approach to completing the project and were ranked based on creativity, public outreach and ability to deliver, responsiveness of proposal for scope of work and experience with city and references.
According to Coleman, JMT ranked the highest based on its high-quality presentation materials and existing relationship with the city.
“The same grants we would be going after for this project they’ve already gotten us,” he said.
Over the last four years, the company has helped Newark with its GIS database, various stormwater management and water quality projects and the “road diet” that turned part of Elkton Road into South Main Street. Coleman said JMT has already completed the engineering for that section of the city and can build off of it to do the rest of the Rodney stormwater project.
“They’ve already inspected those pipes,” he said.
Coleman said JMT’s partnership with BrightField, a Wilmington-based environmental consulting and remediation firm that specializes in redeveloping brownfield sites, also played a factor, as did the company’s plan for public outreach. He said public outreach and awareness for this project are particularly important because residents will be voting whether or not to let the city purchase the site and build the pond.
“We think that when we develop ideas with the public, they tend to have more buy in and it turns out being better,” Coleman said.
Chris Brendza, JMT project manager, explained that JMT will host three meetings over the summer: first to ask residents what they’d like to see, second to present concepts for the pond and a third to decide on a final design and hammer out any last details. He said company officials will also set up booths at community events like New Night to inform the public about the project.
“This is a project we are all very excited to work on,” he said, adding that several JMT employees are UD alumni and have connections to the Rodney dorm. “To do something that, if it goes through, 30 to 40 years from now you can drive by and it’ll still be there.”
Over the next several months, Brendza said JMT and BrightField will conduct a more in-depth environmental study of the site and prepare general demolition and construction plans and cost estimates. He insisted the demolition will not occur until after the referendum passes and it will be safe for the surrounding residential neighborhoods, with crews taking care of all hazardous materials, dust and asbestos control.
However, according to Brendza, the most difficult part of the project won’t be tearing down the shuttered dorm, but getting the public to agree on a design for the pond.
“We haven’t had that first public outreach meeting yet,” he said.
A conceptual drawing of the stormwater pond planned for the University of Delaware’s Rodney dorm site featuring a shallow water wetland, walking trails, a natural playground and education station.