Park N Shop proposal raises con­cerns

Noise, traf­fic and stu­dents among is­sues

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

Bill Wersinger and his part­ner live across from the Park N Shop plaza in a home on Ap­ple Road, less than 123 feet from where a de­vel­oper is propos­ing a three-story build­ing with re­tail space and student apart­ments.

Ev­ery day, Wersinger hears the beep­ing from the cross­walk at the in­ter­sec­tion of Ap­ple Road and South Main Street and at night, light from the Lou­viers Fed­eral Credit Union

park­ing lot, which sits ad­ja­cent to his prop­erty, floods his bed­room. He said stu­dents who live in the area fre­quently trash his lawn with liquor bot­tles, and if more apart­ments are built nearby, things will only get worse.

“It will af­fect our abil­ity to sleep at night,” he said. “I’m just re­ally con­cerned about the qual­ity of our life.”

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from DSM Com­mer­cial, the firm man­ag­ing the Park N Shop, at­tempted to as­suage the fears of neigh­bors like Wersinger dur­ing a pub­lic meet­ing June 7 about the pro­posed project, which in­cludes re­plac­ing the va­cant M&T Bank build­ing at the cor­ner of Ap­ple Road and South Main Street with a three-story mixed-use build­ing that has re­tail space, in­clud­ing a drive-thru cof­fee shop, on the first floor and student apart­ments on the floors above.

The project is still in the early plan­ning stages and has not been sub­mit­ted to the city, ac­cord­ing to DSM’s at­tor­ney Mike Hoff­man.

Hoff­man said DSM wants pub­lic feed­back prior to any for­mal re­views, which is why he or­ga­nized last week’s meet­ing on the firm’s be­half with the help of city coun­cil mem­bers Jen Wal­lace and Chris Hamil­ton. The Park N Shop plaza and M&T Bank site is in Wal­lace’s district, but Hamil­ton rep­re­sents ap­prox­i­mately half of the neigh­bor­ing res­i­dents, in­clud­ing those who live on Winslow, Sun­set and Bev­erly roads.

Roughly 60 peo­ple at­tended the meet­ing, many of whom live in the sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods, such as Townsend Road res­i­dent Beth Corbett Wright. Like Wersinger, she also voiced con­cerns about ad­di­tional noise, es­pe­cially when cus­tomers or­der through the drive-thru speaker.

“I hear base­ball games and I live three blocks away. I en­joy that noise,” Corbett Wright said, re­fer­ring to the Ne­wark Amer­i­can Lit­tle League field be­hind city hall. “None of us are go­ing to en­joy ‘ What would you like in your cof­fee’ at six in the morn­ing.”

Sun­set Road res­i­dent Doortje Shover ques­tioned whether DSM con­sid­ered the ex­ist­ing res­i­dents be­fore draft­ing its plan, be­cause they don’t need a cof­fee shop. She said most of her neigh­bors have their own cof­fee pots at home, plus there is a Wawa, 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts nearby that all serve cof­fee.

“I can’t see my­self go­ing there,” Shover said, re­fer­ring to the pro­posed shop.

As for the pro­posed apart­ment, she said, univer­sity stu­dents al­ready drive down her street, live in the neigh­bor­hood and throw loud parties.

“Why on earth do we need more stu­dents in our neigh­bor­hood?,” she asked. “It’s al­ready driv­ing me crazy.”

Sev­eral res­i­dents of­fered other sug­ges­tions, such as a pro­fes­sional build­ing with lawyers and doc­tors or apart­ments for grad­u­ate stu­dents, who would likely have a qui­eter life­style than un­der­grad­u­ates.

John Mor­gan, who lives about a mile west of the Park N Shop, sug­gested DSM build a small gro­cery store there in­stead. Many years ago, he said, there used to be an Acme in the Park N Shop and he knows res­i­dents miss hav­ing that con­ve­nience.

Mor­gan asked the peo­ple gath­ered for the meet­ing if they would like a gro­cery store and more than half raised their hands, but Robert Wit­tig, a part­ner at DSM, was quick to in­ter­ject.

He as­sured the crowd that when it comes to pos­si­ble ten­ants, the firm has left no stone un­turned.

“Noth­ing would please us more than to have a Trader Joe’s here,” he said. “Trader Joe’s does not want another store in Delaware, and I’ve sat down with them and tried dili­gently.”

Jeff Lawrence, who lives in the Devon neigh­bor­hood, thought student apart­ments might ac­tu­ally move stu­dents out of the res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods and into a more con­cen­trated area.

“The stu­dents have to live some­where. We all live in a univer­sity town. It’s ar­guable that this may make the com­mu­ni­ties nicer from this stand­point,” he said.

“But they’re ev­ery­where,” Shover in­ter­rupted.

Another res­i­dent asked if there is de­mand for more off-cam­pus student apart­ments, to which Wit­tig re­sponded the Univer­sity of Delaware is go­ing to con­tinue to grow.

This fall, UD is ex­pected to en­roll a record-set­ting 4,250 fresh­man, and of­fi­cials have in­di­cated the in­crease is part of a long-range plan to grow the student body.

“The in­di­ca­tion from the other de­vel­op­ers are they’re full,” Wit­tig said. “This isn’t a large-scale project. It’s just 12 units.”

DSM’s proposal in­cludes 10 four-bed­room units and two two-bed­room units, but the firm will need to ask coun­cil to re­zone the prop­erty from BC to BB to al­low for the apart­ments. The project also re­quires sev­eral vari­ances and a spe­cial-use per­mit for the cof­fee shop.

Jean White, who lives in Not­ting­ham Green and not near the site, urged the de­vel­op­ers to keep the Park N Shop zoned BC and in­stead sub­mit a project that fits, such as shops on the first floor and of­fices above.

She said she’s not against the idea of a cof­fee shop, but doesn’t like the driv­ethru com­po­nent be­cause of in­creased traf­fic and emis­sions. She said the drive-thru won’t in­crease busi­ness for ex­ist­ing ten­ants in the Park N Shop be­cause driv­ethrus don’t en­tice peo­ple to go into the plaza and pa­tron­ize the other shops.

“They just bop in and bop out,” she said.

Wittg as­sured the res­i­dents the project is not a done deal and DSM is will­ing to work with the com­mu­nity to come to a com­pro­mise, even sug­gest­ing they form a work­ing group to ad­dress spe­cific is­sues.

“This is our vi­sion but that doesn’t mean we can’t make changes to ac­com­mo­date some of those needs, not that we can ac­com­mo­date all of them,” Wit­tig said. “We have not inked a deal with any­body, but we have a con­cept in mind.”

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF DSM

An artist’s ren­der­ing shows a three-story build­ing with a drive-thru cof­fee shop and student apart­ments pro­posed for the Park N Shop plaza on South Main Street.

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