Friction in University of Delaware Dormitory Redevelopment

In spite of a negative vote by the Newark planning commission, the University of Delaware is moving forward with its redevelopment plans for the West Campus, which has been primarily closed to students since 2015. The current view of the commission, recommending against the proposed plan in a 4-2 vote. This comes as a surprise to many, especially given that the project does not have any need for variances or rezoning. However, approval for the redevelopment sits in the hands of the Newark City Council, which will have the final word. 

Why Is This Project Being Met With Resistance? 

The Newark planning commission cited several concerns in their vote to recommend against the project in its current form. These include: 

  • Negative impact on traffic, which is already considered dense for the area. 
  • A lack of recreational spaces; however, the current, variance-free proposal was chosen over others in order to preserve nearby properties like the Oaklands Swim Club, in itself a recreational space with open memberships.
  • A shortage of paved areas. 

What Does the Current Construction Plan Entail, and Can UD Go Without New Housing? 

To answer the second question, probably not. On the heels of the sudden, ahead-of-schedule closure of the 17-story Christiana Towers residence hall back in November, the university saw itself suddenly needing to find space for hundreds of displaced students. They had originally intended to close the dormitory much later, but the site was outdated and in need of costly repairs and updates that proved too massive to maintain for the rest of the academic year. While space was immediately found for many residents, the institution remains in dire need of places to live while attending school, with many citing a preference for apartment living. 

Thankfully, the new Dickinson townhome and apartment complexes are hoping to fill this gap. Available details on the proposal suggest the following: 

  • 46 three-bed townhouses.
  • 45 apartments to include a mix of two, three, and four-bedroom offerings (320 beds in all).
  • 240 total parking spaces.

At present, the developers acknowledge these new residences will only offer perhaps half what the original Dickinson dormitories did, but they are still much-needed. They also dismissed concerns to do with traffic, providing projections suggesting that the development should not affect its current state. 

What Will Completion Involve Once the Project is Approved?

Apartment and townhome living on a college campus calls for very similar trade, development, and construction as you might expect in a common residential area, with some variations that you don’t tend to get outside of the college experience. 

  • Townhomes aim to have space for multiple student residents, with private, fully-functional kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. 
  • Apartments may feature communal spaces between individual spaces, with rooms enough for 2-4 residents per apartment as well as private kitchens and baths. 
  • All residents, townhome, apartment or otherwise, will be expected to have modern, stylish features reflecting new-construction residences off-campus. 
  • Residents will also expect access to facilities and offices belonging to residence hall staff for the purposes of maintenance requests and interpersonal issues with roommates. 
  • In all locations, students will need sometimes private but often public, easily accessible laundry facilities.

More specifics should become available to the public once the City Council has voted and approved the current plans. 

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