City un­veils pos­si­ble de­signs for Rod­ney stormwa­ter pond

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHAN­NON jshan­non@ches­

Ne­wark­ers last week got their first glimpse at de­tailed plans to trans­form the shut­tered Rod­ney dorm com­plex into a stormwa­ter man­age­ment pond sur­rounded by a park.

City of­fi­cials and their en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tant JMT un­veiled three pos­si­ble con­cepts dur­ing a Sept. 28 work­shop at city hall. The sim­plest de­sign con­sists of the pond, a walk­ing trail and a meadow, while the most am­bi­tious — and ex­pen­sive — pro­posal aims to cre­ate a “des­ti­na­tion park” with ameni­ties in­clud­ing a large play­ground, pavil­ions, fish­ing docks and a pedes­trian bridge.

“This is a project that doesn’t come along ev­ery day,” Tim Fi­lasky, in­terim direc­tor of pub­lic works, said.

Cost es­ti­mates range from $6 mil­lion to $9.8 mil­lion, de­pend­ing on which de­sign is ul­ti­mately cho­sen. The city will pay $4.2 mil­lion for the pur­chase of the land, en­vi­ron­men­tal re­me­di­a­tion and de­mo­li­tion of the build­ings. Con­struct­ing the pond will cost be­tween $1.4 mil­lion and $1.8 mil­lion, and the re­main­der of the cost is for installing the park ameni­ties.

The city will fund the project through the state’s re­volv­ing loan pro­gram and pay off the loan by in­creas­ing the pro­posed monthly stormwa­ter fee charged to prop­erty own­ers. The long­planned stormwa­ter fee, which coun­cil will vote on Mon­day, will charge res­i­dents be­tween $1.77 and $5.31 each month — based on the amount of im­per­vi­ous sur­faces on their prop­erty — to fund the city’s stormwa­ter op­er­a­tions and fix ag­ing in­fra­struc­ture.

If the Rod­ney pond moves for­ward, the stormwa­ter fee will in­crease, with the av­er­age res­i­dent pay­ing an ad­di­tional 82 cents to $1.36 per month. That equates to the av­er­age res­i­dent pay­ing be­tween $196.80 and $326.40 over the 20 years it will take to pay off the loan.

Large com­mer­cial prop­erty own­ers, in­clud­ing the Univer­sity of Delaware, will pay a higher fee.

Con­struc­tion of the pond is con­tin­gent on res­i­dents ap­prov­ing a ref­er­en­dum al­low­ing the city to take on debt. The vote is planned for next spring.

Ne­wark of­fi­cials have dis­cussed pur­chas­ing the dorm site on Hill­side Road since 2015 when UD an­nounced it would close the dorms and sell the prop­erty. The city is un­der con­tract to buy the 7.24-acre site but has another three years to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Ear­lier this year, the city hired JMT to help de­sign the pond and park and so­licit pub­lic feed­back. At a meet­ing in July, res­i­dents were in­vited to make sug­ges­tions for what they would like the site to look like, and the con­cepts pre­sented last week in­cor­po­rated many of those ideas. Af­ter tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion more feed­back, a fi­nal de­sign pro­posal will be un­veiled in Novem­ber.

The pro­posal will then go to city coun­cil, which will vote on whether to take it to ref­er­en­dum.

The most crit­i­cal piece of the project, of course, is the stormwa­ter pond, which works the same way in each of the three pro­pos­als, ex­cept for a dif­fer­ence in the shape.

Cur­rently, stormwa­ter pipes car­ry­ing runoff from Oak­lands and sur­round­ing neigh­bor­hoods con­verge near the Rod­ney site and dur­ing heavy rain, over­whelm the sys­tem and cause flood­ing.

The pond would give the wa­ter a place to col­lect, and the wa­ter would be re­leased in a con­trolled man­ner over a longer pe­riod of time. That would al­le­vi­ate flood­ing in that area as well as down­stream in Old Ne­wark and Devon, Fi­lasky said.

At nor­mal times, the pond would be about 3 feet deep and in­crease to 6 feet dur­ing heavy rains. To pre­vent peo­ple from fall­ing in, the drop off would be grad­ual. An ini­tial “safety bench” area sur­round­ing the pond would nor­mally be dry and have var­i­ous plants act­ing as a bar­rier. Be­yond that would be an “aquatic bench” where the wa­ter is only a foot deep.

“You have to re­ally try to get into it,” Jay Kel­ley, of JMT, said. “You’re not just go­ing to walk into the deep part.”

Though the pond is mostly util­i­tar­ian, of­fi­cials see devel­op­ment of a park as an im­por­tant com­po­nent as well, much as the Ne­wark Reser­voir be­gan as just a backup source of wa­ter but mor­phed into one of Ne­wark’s most pop­u­lar sites for walk­ing, bik­ing and other re­cre­ation.

“A hole in the ground isn’t as pretty as a hole in the ground with park ameni­ties around it,” Fi­lasky said.

Be­low is a look at the three con­cepts. All three pre­serve most of the ma­ture trees on the prop­erty but elim­i­nate the ex­ist­ing ten­nis courts. Each one also in­cludes a quar­ter­mile walk­ing/bik­ing trail and preser ves ac­cess to the Rod­ney un­der­pass, which leads to South Main Street.

To of­fer your com­ments on the project, visit www.­ney.


An aerial photo shows the Rod­ney dorm site, where Ne­wark of­fi­cials hope to build a stormwa­ter pond and park.

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