Residents hear new plans to redevelop old General Motors site in Wilmington

A Delaware developer with plans to rejuvenate the old General Motors Assembly site in Wilmington wanted to get some community input on the proposal. Many residents obliged Thursday night, crowding a meeting to talk about the Boxwood Road plant that’s become an eyesore.

Resident Cheryl Mongillo, among the crowd at Five Points Fire Hall, said she’s looking forward to seeing some changes at the old plant.

“We’re in a high-rent district, so crime just seems to find its way there,” she said. “I’m really looking for somebody to come in and make sure we have real good jobs for people, so we can get back to where this was a good middle-class area.

The current plan is to create an industrial park with high-quality tenants, bringing in thousands of jobs, said Thomas Hanna of Harvey Hanna Associates. The massive project could take up to eight years.

“We think roughly 2,000-3,000 jobs can be created with a smart responsible redevelopment,” Hanna said of the plant built in 1946 and closed by General Motors in 2009. “It could be a little bit more or little bit less … and that does not include the construction jobs that will be created by this redevelopment, so we’re really excited to help put Delaware back to work.”

In October, Hanna’s company purchased the 142-acre property, which is now undergoing a cleanup.  Some of the buildings have been inspected and are set for reconstruction, but it’s unclear who the potential tenants could be.

The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control hosted the community meeting where opinions were mixed but generally positive about the plant redevelopment.

“I think with the type of property that it is, with the access, that it will be crazy not to have to go the industrial route,” Mongillo said. “We would definitely want to do some manufacturing. Banking jobs are a dime a dozen.

“I personally work in health care, and, while there are jobs there, they don’t pay great. We need something where our kids that get out of school and don’t quite know whether they want to go to college, we need something for them to do.”

Meanwhile, Hanna said the plans have a personal connection.

“My family has many connections to this property. My dad was a plant engineer in the plant.  My uncle and my grandfather were both contractors for 25 years in the assembly plant, and so we have a personal connection,” he said. “We’re really excited about restoring this property to a productive use.”

Several years ago, Fisker Automotive considered redeveloping the facilities to build luxury, plug-in hybrid vehicles, but that plan never came to fruition.

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