The Cavaliers redevelopment – We’ve been here before

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Good afternoon everyone,

To the surprise of no one, Cavaliers, is lumbering toward final approval from the New Castle County Council.

For background on the latest developments,click here for the story from WDEL.

Plans call for consolidating existing five lots at the former country club to create a 430-lot subdivision with 288 apartments. Preliminary work is underway at the site.

The need for housing in the area has grown, thanks to big employers like ChristianaCare, Sallie Mae, and JPMorgan Chase staying put or expanding. I-95 access is another drawing card.

Cavaliers also marks a familiar pattern of projects on big tracts that undergo the rezoning process in the northern part of the county.

Working through red tape takes years, with neighborhood opposition correctly pointing to traffic and aesthetic issues that include look-alike homes incorporating the latest fad.

As the bills pile up and the economy gyrates, any plans by the developer to do things differently often fall by the wayside. Home prices rise past the point of affordability for many middle-class families. The same is true with apartments.

Inevitably, these projects end up before the council when the economy is tanking.

Such was the case decades ago when a controversial plan to redevelop the Brandywine horse track on the northern edge of the state was approved during a modest downturn that followed the banking boom. The result was an obsolete semi-ghost mall flanked by big box stores. Housing was nowhere in the mix.

In such times, approvals of flawed developments become a no brainer in a county where the government is primarily funded by property taxes and has development codes that favor developers with deep pockets who can wait out their opponents.

The “Reserve” has been in the works for nearly seven years after the Pennsylvania-based Carlino interests bought a portion of the club property.

There was the predictable outcry from residents in the area around the country, club who enjoyed the peace and quiet.

The problem is that golf courses are a relic of bygone days when joining a country club was a sign of a family “moving on up.”

You can add to the mix Hercules Country Club (moving forward), Three Little Bakers, and The Newark Country Club (apparently part of the Lang student housing empire, which plans to keep the course for a while).

In the case of Cavaliers, traffic issues are substantial and in some states would have killed the project.

Christiana Mall sits in the country club site’s backyard and would seem to be present interesting possibilities for walkable development.

Still, opening up road access to the mall adds to traffic challenges without another massive interchange-related project. This area near I-95 should have been developed in a far different manner back in the 60s and 70s. At this point, simply building a road into the mall would lead to traffic nightmares and intersection projects that typically take years to build.

A walkable route to the mall would require millions of dollars in improvements to a site that already presents its share of hazards for those who want to visit stores outside the mall itself on foot.

Real estate behemoth Brookfield (the mall owner) as well as others with holdings around the mall site currently have no reason to spend millions of dollars to make the lives of pedestrians easier.

In other words, Cavaliers is simply more of the same, with the modest advantage of someday offering housing closer to many workplaces to those who can afford it.

Agree or disagree? Simply hit reply and type away. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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