A developer hoping to attract offices, homes, and warehouses to the 420-acre former Claymont Steel site on the Pennsylvania-Delaware state line and along the Delaware River has donated 15.5 acres for the construction of a mass-transit station, with 800 parking spaces, for people using SEPTA trains and Delaware’s DART buses.
The land was given by a unit of St. Louis-based Commercial Development Corp. The developer has cleared the century-old former steel-mill complex, transferred its former offices to the Gaudenzia House rehab organization, and hopes the big new replacement station, close to I-95, will attract not only more trains and commuters but projects and tenants for prospective offices, warehouses, homes, and a hotel totaling 3.7 million square feet — the size of three big Center City office towers.
Commercial Development says the site, convenient to I-95, I-495, and other highways as well as mass transit, will be more attractive with a higher-capacity mass-transit center.
“People will start using the station, not just to go to Philadelphia or Wilmington, but to come to Claymont” and the site his company calls First State Crossing for its yet-to-be-built attractions, said Steve Collins, executive vice president of the company overseeing the project.
Collins expects to announce additional projects at the site in the new year.
Delaware plans to hire a design-build team in January to develop the station, said John Sisson, executive director of Delaware Transit Corp.
The station would replace unheated plastic-roofed shelters that cover only a fraction of peak crowds and lack even a ticket-sales booth for 1,200 commuters who jam the morning and evening express trains and locals running between Wilmington and Newark, Del., and Philadelphia and Delaware County towns along I-95.
The current station, with its brick underground tunnel, poorly lit pedestrian bridge spanning I-495, and bottleneck delays out of its main parking lot, “isn’t a good experience,” added Sisson, whose child is among the hundreds using the footbridge, on a daily commute to a nearby prep school. The old station is on a curved section of track, forcing passengers in and out of cars on an angle that keeps some aging SEPTA car doors shut unless they are propped open by hand.
The new station will be relocated onto a straight section of the four-track line, which is shared by intercity Amtrak Northeast Corridor trains and freight traffic serving nearby oil and chemical plants.
A federal transportation grant will provide $10 million of the cost, with other funding in the works, Sisson said. He said parking will remain free, at least “initially," and paths to the nearby village of Claymont will be extended.
Collins' company, which redeveloped Bethlehem Steel’s former Sparrows Point works near Baltimore, is also seeking projects for the former Budd Co. site in far Northeast Philadelphia, the Glidden paint factory in Reading, and the ex-Congoleum works near Trenton, among other locations.
The Delaware transit agency is also upgrading the SEPTA-Amtrak station in Newark, near the University of Delaware, the southernmost station served by SEPTA trains.
Sisson said the goal is to run more trains along the line — not just north toward Philadelphia but also to get Maryland’s MARC trains to extend service into Delaware so riders can travel by local train among Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore, and Washington suburbs. For now, the local Cecil County Transit agency runs buses from Newark to MARC’s station in Perryville, Md.