Newark residents not happy with development patterns get chance to speak out

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Good afternoon,

Newark residents who are not crazy about the current mid-rise development pattern along Main Street will have a chance to air their views.

The city Planning Commission and the Planning and Development Department are undertaking a five-year review of the Comprehensive Development Plan.

Much has happened since the last review, including the pandemic and the possibility that the University of Delaware’s enrollment has topped out and might decline for a time.

There are also esthetic issues with multistory projects that are changing Main Street’s look and feel for the worse.

Granted, the economics of a mixture of student housing and a smattering of storefronts along Main Street remain compelling. Plenty of projects are already in the pipeline that can quickly adapt to student housing, even if that is not the main focus.

Major changes are not always possible since developers can sue and prevail if projects meet current planning guidelines.

Parking remains the elephant in the room since the city has been unable to develop a solution as developers nibble away at available surface spaces.

The economics of getting thousands of dollars a month from properties are at work in sometimes futile efforts to keep student rentals in a designated area and bring a more diverse population of residents to downtown and adjacent areas.

Still, some earlier trends, like enrollment growth and a possible hotel and office boom, are now on pause.

The process can’t do much about dealing with the changing mix of businesses along Main Street. The pandemic has only accelerated the long-running flight of retailers and service businesses that are not exclusively focused on the student population.

Next week, the city will host a series of “Coffee Break” Public Workshops over a ten-day period.

Residents interested in participating will be able to access the Coffee Breaks via Zoom, and the links will be available on the city website, newarkde.gov/meetings.

The hour-long Zoom sessions may work better than the past process that involved meetings at inconvenient times at the Municipal Building.

The hour-long workshops will educate the public on local planning issues with a short presentation followed by engaging participants in a “focus group” discussion.

In 2016, after a lengthy process, the Planning Commission recommended, and City Council adopted, the current plan, which can be viewed here.

Input gained from the zoom workshops is aimed at helping a Steering Committee with its review and recommendations. The Planning Commission will review the Steering Committee’s recommendations and present a final recommendation to City Council for adoption later this year.

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