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Stoltz projects get $2M in site readiness funds

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More than 1,000 people are already working at the new ILG1 fulfillment center in Bear. The logistics park received $1 million in state funding to install infrastructure for additional phases of development. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

NEW CASTLE – Two warehouse projects off U.S. Route 13 being developed by Pennsylvania-based developer Stoltz Real Estate Partners received a combined $2 million in state Site Readiness Fund grants Monday.

The state’s investment board has now signed off on the first 10 projects to receive grants from a new $10 million state fund that aims to invest in infrastructure upgrades to make shovel-ready sites for new development.

The Council on Development Finance, an appointed board that considers applications for taxpayer-backed state development funds, approved all eight projects presented at its March meeting, totaling $6.2 million.

Stoltz Real Estate Partners plans to turn this former gravel pit near the New Castle Airport into an enormous warehouse. | PHOTO COURTESY OF NCC

They ranged from an enormous warehousing park in Middletown to the redevelopment of the DuPont Chestnut Run laboratories, expansion of Kent and Sussex County business parks and the redevelopment of a former Claymont chemical site. In all, three projects each in New Caste and Kent counties were approved along with two in Sussex County.

Two of the 13 applications to the new fund were rejected, but one more application is still being reviewed and may be presented for approval. It reportedly would total $1 million, pushing the first round to $9.2 million of its $10 million allotment.

Stoltz sought the funds to support building an 890,348-square-foot warehouse off Churchmans Road, adjoining the New Castle County Airport, and a multi-phase expansion of its Blue Diamond Park, where a 1 million-square-foot Amazon facility recently opened.

Shawn Tucker, land use attorney from Barnes & Thornburg, addresses the Council on Development Finance on Monday about the Stoltz projects. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

Shawn Tucker, legal counsel for Stoltz, told the CDF that no tenant or buyer had been identified for any of the buildings. Both projects are properly zoned and considered by-right projects, meaning they are unlikely to face permitting issues, Tucker explained. The money will be used to install infrastructure on the sites.

“I would submit to you as a zoning attorney that this is a wonderful redevelopment opportunity to take these rather ugly sites, that are dug out and have really reached the end of their life in terms of material, and redevelop them into something that not only creates jobs, but also provides more for folks here locally and regionally,” Tucker said.

At Hare’s Corner, Stoltz purchased the roughly 59-acre parcel near the intersection of Route 273 and U.S. Route 13 for $6.9 million in 2012 from Parkway Gravel, the real estate subsidiary of the New Castle-based construction firm Greggo & Ferrara. It has been trying to develop the land ever since.

Jeff Bross, a senior consultant from engineering firm Verdantas, discusses the Hare’s Corner project. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

The project has shifted in concept in recent years, after a failed attempt to develop the former gravel pit into a retail site anchored by Walmart. That project was scuttled by then-County Executive Tom Gordon, who pulled support for a state grant connected to the project in 2013 after learning of Walmart’s involvement, saying it would hurt “mom-and-pop” businesses.

Amazon’s ILG1 facility was originally intended to be developed at the former borrow pit site, but the e-commerce giant preferred the site a few miles to the south at more than 200-acre Blue Diamond Park. Stoltz is now proposing to invest more than $60.8 million into developing the Churchmans Road site into a spec facility, with a proposed 118 loading docks and as many truck stalls.

Meanwhile at Blue Diamond, Stoltz is looking to invest more than $162 million to construct five new warehouses over three phases, totaling nearly 2.15 million square feet of space. The largest of the warehouses, totaling 911,400 square feet with 156 tractor-trailer docks, is about a month away from final approval, according to Tucker. The additional smaller warehouses are still in the exploratory phase, and about six months from approval.

State Sen. Nicole Poore voiced concerns about the proliferation of warehousing in the corridor, especially at Blue Diamond Park, which is adjacent to existing neighborhoods, and asked whether any other uses might be possible.

Tucker responded that there could be non-distribution usage and noted that WuXi STA looked at the site closely for its future pharmaceutical manufacturing plant before choosing land in Middletown, but noted that the market demand for warehousing was currently quite high. He added that one reason WuXi chose a different site was due to the lack of infrastructure currently on the Blue Diamond site, which the site readiness funds would help address.

“While warehousing and industrial is certainly a permitted use, and our client is seeing a lot of demand for that, pharmaceutical would be fantastic if we could attract another company like [WuXi],” Tucker said.

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