A once-rejected Main Street development project has new hope after city council unanimously agreed to hear a revised version of the plan.
Developer George Danneman will present the new plans to council in the coming weeks, but the exact date has not yet been announced.
Danneman is proposing to demolish the building that houses Tasty Wok, Playa Bowls and the former Margherita’s Pizza. He will replace it with an 11,750-square-foot building containing first-floor retail space and 28 apartments.
Danneman already leases a portion of his land to the city – land that makes up part of Lot 4, the pay-to-park lot that runs from Center Street to behind the Kate’s Place apartments.
Danneman’s proposed building would extend a bit farther back than the existing structure, eliminating 16 spaces from the public parking lot. However, in exchange for a 67-space parking waiver, he proposed granting the city a 99-year-lease on the remaining 14 parking spaces that are part of his land.
The 67-space parking waiver refers to the required new parking spaces not being built, not existing spaces that would be lost.
John Tracey, a lawyer for Danneman, told council earlier this year that the new apartment building doesn’t need parking because it will cater to students. If tenants choose to bring a car to campus, they can pay to store their car in a university lot, he said, noting there are already a number of downtown apartment buildings that do not provide tenants with parking.
“I think the hope is to try to separate people from their cars and not bring their cars,” he said.
In February, however, council rejected the parking waiver, rendering the rest of Danneman’s proposal moot. Under city code, the project can’t be reconsidered for two years, unless city council agrees to make an exception.
Council did just that on Monday night.
“Two years is a long time to have to wait,” Councilman Travis McDermott said. “I don’t think we should make him wait.”
Tracey said Danneman has made significant changes to the proposal to address concerns, but he did not detail them Monday.
What is a parking waiver?
The city’s parking waiver system, which is often criticized and frequently misunderstood, has been in place since 1986.
Parking waivers allow developers to forgo the construction of parking spaces in exchange for contributing to public parking infrastructure.
For each required space that isn’t built, the developer must pay the city a set amount, which is based on how much it would cost to build a parking space elsewhere. The current amount ranges from $335 to $6,711 per space, depending on how many spaces the waiver is for. The money paid by various developers is then supposed to be used by the city to acquire or improve public parking facilities.
Alternatively, developers can propose a trade, most commonly by giving a portion of their property to the city for use as public parking. For instance, in 1999, the Walgreen’s project next to Danneman’s property was granted a parking waiver in exchange for land behind the building, and that land now makes up a portion of a public parking lot. A decade later, the city-run lot behind the University of Delaware Bookstore was created the same way.
The idea behind parking waivers is they allow landowners to develop property that would not otherwise have room for the required parking. They also allow for parking downtown that is centralized and controlled by the city, rather than Main Street being dominated by a patchwork of small, privately-managed lots.