Delaware’s Yorklyn neighborhood will undergo a massive revitalization project involving environmental cleanups and the addition of new business and entertainment.
For more than a decade the neighborhood of Yorklyn in Delaware was home to an abandoned manufacturing site that was falling to pieces and was polluted with asbestos and other toxins.
But soon nearby residents can say goodbye to what has been considered an eyesore upon completion of a state-led revitalization project. In addition, Yorklyn will undergo a renaissance as the public and private sectors add environmental and entertainment attractions to the area.
On Monday Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, joined state agencies to announce the remediation of the NVF manufacturing site—as well as plans to turn Yorklyn into a mixed-use residential, commercial and recreational neighborhood.
“What a mess this has been for so long,” Markell said during the announcement. “What an opportunity to make this better.”
The revitalization project is a joint effort between Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
When the NVF facility, which created paper products, closed in 2009 it left a crumbling building and years of environmental damage.
Zinc seeped into the ground and around the water which is under the site—some of that was under the old buildings.
Zinc is not a human health issue, but when it gets in high concentrations in the aquatic environment it can have a negative impact on the food chain.
DNREC’s Division of Waste & Hazardous Substances’ Site Investigation and Restoration Section is removing asbestos and cleaning up zinc contamination in the soil and groundwater. More than 233 tons of contaminants have been removed from the property
“So we have to remove the asbestos, tear down the buildings, take off the slab floor and then be able to dig out the contaminated soils,” said DNREC Secretary David Small.
“In the interim we’ve been pumping out the ground water through a system and treating it, capturing the zinc and discharging clean water back into the environment.”
In addition to the cleanup, the state is working on the creation of wetland and flood mitigation sites and a comprehensive stream restoration that will improve water quality, protect fish in the Red Clay Creek, remove contaminant sources and reduce severe flooding.
More than $7 million has been spent to remediate the site, including almost $5 million in state funding, about $1.6 million from FEMA for property acquisition, building demolition and site restoration of an office building, and $426,000 from EPA for asbestos removal.
DNREC hopes the project will be complete during the first half of next year.
The surrounding land will be open space with a walking, biking, jogging and horseback riding trail, and so far, 1.5 miles of trails have been constructed for use. In addition, many of the existing historical buildings are being renovated.
The Rail Explorers Company also has settled in the area to offer its pedal-powered bikes that take passengers on a scenic route of the Yorklyn area.
A public equestrian center adjacent to the NVF site also is planned as a result of a 10-acre land donation by local residents.
Restauranteur Dan Butler, owner of Toscana, Tonic and Brandywine Prime, is developing a concept for a destination restaurant—and Dew Point Brewery Company is already on-site, soon to be open to the public.
The Delaware Symphony Orchestra and DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation are collaborating on plans for an amphitheater that will serve as the Symphony’s home base for summer outdoor concerts.
“How wonderful it is to know that the state and our Governor recognize the importance of the arts and culture in making our communities vital,” said DSO Music Director David Amado added,
DC Squared, a company owned by Drake Cattermole, Partner, Tresid Group, LLC. also is planning the construction of new townhouses in the area.
“Our job is to get the tax payers the best possibly return on their investment,” Markell said. “To see the rebirth is extraordinary.”