Stoltz sells off last of Barley Mill Plaza land
Pettinaro plans to redevelop 24-building plaza into mix of residential, retail and office space
Barley Mill Plaza, one of the most controversial properties in New Castle County, has been sold.
The Stoltz real estate organization closed a deal earlier this month to sell off its remaining 57-acre stake in the property, concluding a nearly decadelong battle with its affluent Greenville neighbors over its plans to redevelop the former DuPont Co. complex.
Real estate developer Greg Pettinaro said Wednesday that his Newport-based company purchased the land on Oct. 6, adding to the five retail and office properties in Greenville the business acquired from Stoltz last year for a reported price of more than $100 million. Financial terms of the latest land deal were not disclosed.
Already the biggest landowner in Greenville's retail district, Pettinaro plans to redevelop the 24-building plaza into a mix of residential, retail and office space.
"We would like to design a project that the community will embrace and be an asset to the local economy and neighborhoods," Pettinaro said. "It is a beautiful piece of property that has so much potential."
The Stoltz organization was never able to capitalize on that potential.
Stoltz Real Estate Partners, headquartered in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, bought the 92-acre former office complex from the DuPont Co. in 2007 for $94 million.
The company, headed by Keith Stoltz, touched off the most contentious battle in Greenville history a year later when it proposed three massive projects along the Del. 141 corridor, including a $525 million redevelopment of the Barley Mill Plaza. That project called for the construction of 700 apartments or condominiums; 1.48 million square feet of office space; and 731,250 square feet of retail space, which included stores, restaurants, a fitness center, a day care and a hotel.
Several wealthy and powerful residents of Greenville formed a well-funded group called Citizens for Responsible Growth that opposed the projects, arguing the plans would cripple traffic and forever change the bucolic landscape of the area.
With the help of then-County Executive Chris Coons, a compromise was reached in 2010 that dropped the scale of the Barley Mill Plaza development to 1.6 million square feet of shops and offices, while eliminating the residential component. A rezoning of 37 acres along Del. 141 from office to commercial use was approved in 2011.
But the deal bitterly divided the community between those concerned about the Barley Mill Plaza development and those fighting a 12-story tower at the Greenville Center, also owned by Stoltz. The schism led to the creation of Save Our County, a new group that sued New Castle County and property owner Barley Mill LLC in late 2011, claiming the rezoning violated state law.
Current County Executive Thomas P. Gordon joined the battle against Barley Mill Plaza after returning to office in 2012, a year before Delaware Chancery Court invalidated the rezoning and two years before the Delaware Supreme Court upheld that decision.
Soon after, Stotz sold off 35 acres of the Barley Mill Plaza property to Odyssey Charter School and withdrew its original 2.8-million-square-foot mixed-use plan. A year later, the company sold off five properties to Pettinaro, including the Greenville Center, Powder Mill Square, the Montchanin Corporate Center, the Greenville Professional Center and the Barley Mill House.
"This is one of only a few large tracts of land left in northern New Castle County," Pettinaro said of Barley Mill Plaza's remaining 57 acres. "This fits right in with what we do as a company, and that's redevelop eyesore structures into something that pleases the community."
Larry Tarabicos, who represents Stoltz, said Barley Mill was the last of the Stoltz properties in Greenville. He said Pettinaro will likely have learned from the previous legal fights over the property.
"I don't think the community should be overly concerned," Tarabicos said. "It certainly won't be a major battle like we saw before."
Pettinaro declined Wednesday to give specifics about what the exact combination of mixed uses his company hopes to build on the property.
"Before we're willing to discuss anything publicly, we first want to meet with the community groups and talk to them about what we're thinking of doing, answer their questions and, hopefully, get their support," he said. "I expect we'll be reaching out to them in the next 30 days."
Pettinaro said he has no timetable for submitting building plans to the county or beginning work on the property.
Gordon said the issue will be closely watched by local government.
"The county still has to be vigilant knowing the history of this place and the traffic limitations," Gordon said.
Tom Dewson, a local community activist who fought Stoltz's plans as part of Save our County, said the property is important for two primary reasons. First, it is the gateway to the historic Brandywine Valley.
"We are looking forward to an early and open dialog with the Pettinaro organization," Dewson said. "Anything has to be considered in the light of the character of the area."
Dewson said the property is also important for its position in an "employment corridor." He said the five miles from U.S. 202 to Faulkland Road is home to 100-percent office, residential and institutional uses.
"There are no retail uses along that corridor," Dewson said. "That has been the character of the area for many decades, and that character is very important to the community."
Councilman Bob Weiner said he is encouraged by the fact that it is a local developer purchasing the property.
"Unlike Mr. Stoltz, Greg Pettinaro understands the importance of working with community leaders, the county's Land Use Department and the district council," Weiner said.
Weiner said whatever development comes to the property should be pedestrian-friendly.
"The Barley Mill site is miles away from an intrastate highway and as such, it has limited traffic capacity," Weiner said. "I would hope the intensity of use would be lessened by a walkable, mixed-use village where residents can walk to where they live, shop, work and play."