SEPTA commuter train service to the new Claymont Transportation Center starts Dec. 4, increasing the community’s attractiveness to businesses and residents and reducing hassles for commuting into – and just visiting – Philadelphia
The new station is a centerpiece of redevelopment of 425 acres on Philadelphia Pike, just south of the Pennsylvania line, that for decades was a steel mill. First State Crossing is in various stages of creating commercial, office, retail and residential buildings. And maybe a park.
“One of Claymont’s greatest assets has always been our location in relation Philadelphia,” said Brett Saddler, executive director of the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp.
“We believe that in addition to that, this substantial regional rail project will strengthen the former Claymont Steel redevelopment prospects and also create welcoming access to the proposed Claymont Riverfront Park and Marina.”
When the Claymont Transportation Center was announced in 2019, it was called a $71 million project due to be completed in 2021. Now it’s a $90 million project, opening two years later.
“There had been some delays early on in the project due to a duct bank that was found that we had to design around/avoid, an 8-inch abandoned petroleum line that was found and a longer timeframe than anticipated to get necessary design approvals and the necessary railroad coordination for construction,” said Charles “C.R.” McLeod, director of community relations for the Delaware Department of Transportation.
The new station will lead to three lanes exiting onto Philadelphia Pike. Exiting from the old station, by contrast, could easily back up on Myrtle Avenue.
A surface parking lot has 323 regular spaces, nine accessible spaces, four short-term spaces and eight spaces for charging electric vehicles, he said. A garage has 464 spaces, including 10 accessible and four EV charging.
That adds up to 808 spaces. The old station had 497 parking spaces.
“The spots will be free, but DelDOT, which subsidizes commuter rail in the state, reserves the right for future parking charges,” Delaware Business Times reported in 2019.
Trains, buses and pedestrians
SEPTA runs 16 trains from Claymont to Philadelphia on weekdays, with nine continuing to Newark. There are 16 trains weekdays from Philadelphia to Claymont, with eight continuing to Newark.
The SEPTA schedule includes nine trains from Claymont to Philadelphia on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, and eight from Philadelphia to Claymont. All continue to Wilmington, but none to Newark.
“No changes are planned for the current service during 2023,” SEPTA spokeswoman Kelly Greene said. “Minor changes are anticipated on Jan. 7, 2024 related to ongoing Amtrak bridge and track state-of-good-repair work south of Crum Lynne and Wilmington.”
The station has a dedicated bus loop, and DART lists the new center on its Route 13 schedule.
The new center includes two 630-foot platforms; a covered pedestrian bridge over the tracks; ADA-accessible stair towers with elevators; and restrooms, security, waiting area and ticketing, according to JMT, the project’s lead architect. There are provisions for bicycle and pedestrian access and widening Philadelphia Pike.
Planners realize that the new station is a drab walk north to Naamans Road or south to Claymont.
A 2017 map shared by Commercial Development Co., which is developing First State Crossing, shows plans for a trail network that could easily make for a nicer connection to Darley Green, a massive mixed-use development to the south, with residences, retail and the Claymont library.
The network could also link into the Northern Delaware Greenway and the East Coast Greenway, said Steve Collins, executive vice president of CDC.
A grand opening of the transportation center is scheduled 10:30 a.m. Nov. 27, with RSVPs requested at [email protected]. After all the speeches, the Claymont Renaissance Development Corp. will host a reception at the nearby Darley House.
The old Myrtle Avenue station, which is owned by Amtrak, will be decommissioned, said Bruce R. Demeter, chief of performance and innovation for the Delaware Transit Corp., a DelDOT division That means removing structures that won’t be needed in the future, securing the tunnel entrance on the platform and closing the gates to Myrtle.
“The entrance to the I-495 pedestrian bridge on Governor Printz Extension will temporarily close to allow for DTC to construct a multi-use pathway across the parking lot at the existing station,” he said. “This pathway will connect the pedestrian bridge to the multi-use pathway that has been constructed from the new station to Myrtle Avenue entrance of the old station.”
The new center is named for Harris B. McDowell III, who represented the area in the state Senate from 1976 to 2020.
A park for Claymont? Talks are going on
CDC is ready to donate land to New Castle County for a park, which would include six miles of trails on 50 acres of preserved land.
A design for Electric Arc Park also envisions a marina and an amphitheater. “A+ work,” Collins said of the plan, by the Coastal Resilience Design Studio, a team of University of Delaware students.
CDC would be expected to improve the site more before the county would agree to accept the land and run a park, he said.
“We remain committed to create a beautiful park on the Claymont waterfront, in collaboration with the developer and the state government,” County Executive Matt Meyer told DelawareLive in 2022, and a county spokesman said in November there’s “nothing more to add.”
The latest for First State Crossing
CDC bought the old steel plant property in 2015, and its plans have evolved multiple times.
For instance, the land now set aside for a park was once considered as a port.
After the pandemic encouraged companies to let more people work from home, and people increased buying items online, the mix of buildings has changed.
When the center was announced in 2019, plans included 3.75 million square feet of construction: 2.09 million for residential (620 townhomes and 576 apartments), 844,000 for offices, 370,000 for industrial, 275,000 for office-industrial, 125,000 for a hotel (120 rooms) and 47,000 for retail.
The residential space is down to 1.8 million square feet, for 1,200 units, and it will still be “the largest waterfront development in the Greater Philadelphia market,” Collins said.
The space for offices will be “significantly less,” he said. A CDC page projects 500,000 square feet of Class A space, plus a parking garage for 450 vehicles.
The industrial space is already on the way to be significantly more.
First Industrial Realty Trust bought 28 acres from CDC and built a 358,000-square-foot logistics facility with 68 dock-high door positions and 238 trailer stalls. First Industrial has not yet announced any tenants for the warehouse, perched so conveniently to the interstate system.
“The building’s functional design, location, unmatched access and unsurpassed trailer parking are ideal for businesses looking to serve customers in this high-consumption zone,” John Hanlon, executive director for First Industrial, said in a statement.
CDC also sold five acres to Gaudenzia, which provides substance use disorder treatment services out of the steel plant’s old offices.
The space for retail is now listed at 105,000 square feet on CDC’s website.
“There no immediate plans for a hotel,” Collins said.
CDC expect to sell most of the land, but might retain the land with apartments, he said.
Agile Cold Storage
Agile Cold Storage broke ground in October for a $170 million facility at First State Crossing. The first phase of the 265,000-square foot-warehouse will be operational by early 2024.
The company has received up to $4.5 million in state grants for the project.
Agile plans on bring 130 new jobs to Claymont to handle “a wide variety of inventory” in a “multi-temperature storage network.”
Agile President and CEO Don Schoenl told Delaware Business Times that its clients include “the largest fruit and vegetable importers from South Africa and Morocco as well as protein exporters from South America, Australia and New Zealand.”
Proximity to the Port of Wilmington is a big asset: The port “ranks among the top gateways for fruit and juice concentrates” and is “a chief banana port in North America,” the Times wrote.
Many Agile clients are looking to export products from Ohio and Pennsylvania, he added.
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