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5Q: Thomas J. Hanna on Boxwood development

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Thomas J. HannaHarvey Hanna & Associates Inc. has announced its exploratory plan for the redevelopment of the former General Motors plant at 801 Boxwood Road outside Wilmington. The plan proposes turning the 142-acre property into a modern business, fulfillment and distribution campus that would serve as an economic engine for the region. We talked with company president Thomas J. Hanna about working across sectors and embracing the region’s “atmospherics” through the project.

What lessons from past redevelopment projects has Harvey Hanna brought to the GM plant?

Expanded community engagement helps secure a win-win for the company, its tenants and local publics. The dynamics of redevelopment have changed since our Twin Spans Business Park was developed in 1998-2002; accordingly, we are responding to the regional atmospherics rather than any unique corporate experience – the Barley Mill project is considered a classic case of plans getting sidetracked due to perceived insufficient community engagement.

What inspired the inclusion of transit-oriented development in the Greater Newport Area Redevelopment plan? And how does Harvey Hanna think about transportation access generally?

We are strong proponents of multimodal transportation processes. Adequate highway systems are obviously an imperative to continued economic progress. However, we believe strongly in a concurrent role for mass transit (DART engagement with Twin Spans Business Park and Creekwood); both freight and passenger rail; and greenway projects such as bicycle and walking paths. We walk the talk.

Commercial tenants would make up a significant part of the Boxwood re-development under this plan. Any thoughts on the types of businesses that might fill out the space?

Current expectation – which could change tomorrow with the ideal manufacturing tenant – would encompass tenants along the lines of e-commerce and distribution/fulfillment/logistics operations.
We will listen to what the market tells us in terms of best uses.

The GM plant is a brownfield site. What advice do you have for other developers considering this type of property?

Create beneficial working relationships with the regulatory community and the local publics; transparency is key.

How does Harvey Hanna balance its prerogative with those of state and local partners? How did that dynamic play out for this project?

The experience with state and local partners remains underway; no conclusions can as yet be drawn. That said, we are proud of the progress made to date with the submission of the Exploratory Plan to the New Castle County Department of Land Use and the dialogue to date with the regulatory community. All stakeholders desire to put Delaware back to work.

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