STAR campus overshadows local neighborhood Devon Binns
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 22:09
This is part of a series looking into the development and future of STAR campus, the 272-acre site purchased by the University of Delaware in 2009 under President Patrick Harker. The goal of STAR campus is to attract researchers as well as other corporate partners to develop on the site, with the project timeline spanning up to 30 years, according to Andy Lubin, director of real estate for the university.
Located in the heart of south Newark, neighborhood Devon Binns is what resident Sandy Schriver calls a community with a “main town-city feel.” The 50-year-old neighborhood, with its blocks and cul-de-sacs accompanied with playgrounds, is so tightly knit that citizens share everything from stories to tomatoes, Schriver said.
“Everyone sits out on their porch,” Schriver said. “You get to know everyone just by walking down the street.”
This very community, however, will soon be in the shadow of the 248-megawatt natural gas power plant that will power Wolf Technology Center, a data center that will cater to entities such as banks, social media websites, insurance companies and government agencies, according to Andrea Wolf, vice president of the West Chester, Pa.-based Data Centers LLC., which signed a 75-year agreement with the university for the site.
Jackie Legasse, 63, has lived in Devon Binns intermittently since 1995, ultimately deciding to settle in Newark upon retirement partially because she has always considered the university a “good neighbor.” However, the news of the power plant––and the “clandestine” conduct of the university––does not sit well with her.
Turning her words into action, Legasse, along with other residents of District 3, crowded around a booth Sunday at the city’s annual Community Day. Identified by matching T-shirts, the group, No Newark Power Plant, has begun organizing events such as a meeting today at Newark High School and a march next week from the train station to Delaware Stadium.
“We want people to know what’s happening in their backyard,” Legasse said. “We don’t believe the university is being a good neighbor.”
In a letter addressed to John Kowalko, state representative from the 25th district, university President Patrick Harker stated “the complex will have to meet all local, state and federal laws for emissions, water quality and noise.”
Harker, who is also a director of energy delivery company Pepco Holdings Inc, went on to state by using a natural-gas-powered center, TDC will “reduce, or even eliminate, highly polluting diesel generators.”
Kathryn Gifford, doctoral student in the public policy program, has lived in Devon Binns for eight years with her husband, Robert Gifford. Though they were originally excited for the proposed STAR campus, they said the university’s conduct in negotiations was disappointing.
“STAR campus was this blank slate that could be made into anything,” Gifford said. “It should be developed, but I don’t think it’s good to lock in such a large portion of it for industrial use.”
Kathryn Gifford cited original proposals of STAR campus issued by the the university after 1743 Holdings LLC., the wholly-owned subsidiary of the university, purchased the site that was formerly the Chrysler Assembly Plant.
In the 2011 STAR Campus Master Plan, it was stated STAR campus would be “organized around the university’s definition of environmental sustainability.” Additionally, community engagement is one of the core values of the plan.
Robert and Kathryn Gifford said they doubt the efficiency of TDC. Gifford, an alumni from the engineering department, said he does not think the company will be successful in recapturing most of its emissions like officials at TDC are claiming.
“When you think of data centers, they are the biggest energy hogs of them all,” Giffords said.
Among Legasse’s other concerns include noise pollution, the local economy and the environmental impacts. Legasee, while pointing to an aerial map of the city, said parks and local schools such as Newark Center for Creative Learning are within a few miles of the power plant. Also, by having pipelines run through state park White Clay Creek, Legasee said the data center, as well as the university, is taking away the city’s green space.
“Just as much as [the university] is selling out the residents, they are selling out the students,” Legasse said.