County hearings on traffic variance requests don’t usually draw standing-room only crowds to the City/County Building in downtown Wilmington, but on Tuesday night the room was packed with bright orange-clad t-shirt-wearing constituents who left no doubt they were in favor of that evening’s applicant.
Hundreds of supporters of the Pettinaro Company’s plans to invest $130 million into the long-vacant Barley Mill Plaza site that once housed DuPont Company offices came out in force, with their shirts’ message leaving no doubt of their position: “Support Barley Mill.”
Attendees got what they came for, which was a unanimous, 13-0 New Castle County Council vote in favor of the variance, which will allow Pettinaro to move forward with demolition of the decrepit former DuPont buildings and transformation of the 500,000 square foot mixed-use development that will be anchored by a new Wegman’s grocery store.
Supporters in attendance cheered the positive outcome, nervously laughing when council president Karen Hartley-Nagle first joked that the variance had not been approved.
In all likelihood, the council vote may well signal and end to one of the longest running and most contentious land-use battles in county history, going back more than ten years to when developer Keith Stoltz first proposed a 2.5 million redevelopment of the property bordering the quiet Greenville community that was likened to the King of Prussia Mall.
Pettinaro president Greg Pettinaro drew plaudits from the community and council members for engaging with civic groups and other stakeholders as he drafted plans for a downsized redevelopment. Pettinaro hosted several public meetings in advance of Tuesday’s hearing.
Landing Wegman’s as an anchor tenant delighted local residents, who complained of having to travel to north Wilmington or Pennsylvania for similar food store options.
Pettinaro said he was pleased with the outcome, and had no expectation the vote would be unanimous in his favor.
“I’m excited that the council agreed with our analysis that this is best for the community,” he said. “This means a lot more jobs. This is a big economic development project, a dilapidated park will get refurbished, something that becomes a vital part of this community again.”