UD signs agreement to purchase Chrysler property in Newark


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Editor's note: The University of Delaware has posted a new Web page that provides information to firms interested in providing services related to the planning, salvage, clean-up and development of the Chrysler site. UD will neither accept nor respond to unsolicited telephone calls.

9:05 a.m., Oct. 24, 2009----The University of Delaware has signed a purchase agreement for the 272-acre site formerly occupied by the Chrysler Assembly Plant in Newark, UD President Patrick Harker has announced. The agreement, with a purchase price of $24.25 million, was submitted for approval by the U.S. Federal Bankruptcy Court in New York.

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"The size of this parcel of land and its proximity to our main campus make this truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for the University of Delaware," Harker said. "If approved, this purchase will allow for the expansion of UD's educational and research opportunities for all our students and the University community for generations to come.

"In addition to enabling us to dramatically reshape the gateway to the University campus from the south, it provides us with a wealth of options as we move UD forward on our Path to ProminenceTM," he said. "We see great potential economic development and community infrastructure enhancement initiatives that will have a tremendously positive impact on the city, the state and the region."

In making the announcement, Harker expressed his thanks to Delaware's congressional delegation for their support throughout this process, particularly the efforts of U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper and Delaware Governor Jack Markell as well as their staff. He also noted that Newark Mayor Vance Funk was extremely supportive.

Economic development goals for the site

Harker said the acquisition of the property is critical to the University's mission of being a driver of economic growth for the state. It will allow for expansion of University-based and corporate partnerships-based research and collaboration in areas such as the health sciences and alternative energy, among others.

The Chrysler site presents a variety of unique advantages for economic growth and development including its physical location within the Mid-Atlantic region, access to transportation systems and road networks and its proximity to university programs, technical support and intellectual resources.

“We see the possibility of using the property to build upon the type of partnership activities supported by our Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships that will stimulate the state economy through employee recruitment, undergraduate programs, graduate education programs and research collaborations," Harker said.

“This is important for the local, state and regional economy as well as for Delaware's land-grant university. Congress passed the Morrill Act in 1862, granting federally controlled land to states for the purpose of creating colleges that would teach agriculture and the mechanical arts to working-class citizens. So part of the land-grant mission was to make higher education practical to the average citizen,” Harker added. “The definition of a practical education has changed over the years. UD has renowned programs in agriculture and engineering-anchors of the 19th-Century economy and highly relevant today. In addition, UD is a land-grant, sea-grant and space-grant university that must also focus on those sectors enabling and sustaining 21st Century economic growth-including biomedicine, biotech and alternative energy technologies. This University's mission is to prepare all citizens to compete in the global marketplace, and that marketplace has changed irrevocably.”

The initial objective for development at the site will be to create a research and technology campus adjacent to the University. The proximity of the site will allow University faculty to meet their teaching and basic research responsibilities while simultaneously exploiting their intellectual property to the benefit of the citizens of the state and the University. Similarly, participation in faculty research and creation of businesses promotes an entrepreneurial undergraduate and graduate student experience that will further foster economic growth. The University's preliminary analysis suggests the likely candidates for early inclusion in the park are the UD's emerging research partnerships with the Army, the Delaware Health Sciences Alliance, and several University research centers and institutes.

Additional benefits of the acquisition include enhancing public transportation in and around Newark through transit-oriented development, especially given the location of the Amtrak train station adjacent to the property. "We plan to work with DelDOT, the city of Newark, our congressional delegation and others to craft solutions to current parking and train transportation issues, in order to make this a pleasant and convenient commuter location," Harker said.

All decisions on the use of this property will be in the context of the University's academic, research and service mission, as well as the goals and values identified in UD's Path to Prominence TM strategic plan and planning principles outlined in its Campus Capacity & Assessment Review.

Background on the agreement

On Dec. 3, 2008, the Chrysler LLC shuttered its Newark assembly plant. Last spring the University's Board of Trustees authorized the purchase of this property. University officials have been working with representatives from the Old Carco Company (the successor to Chrysler LLC) and Capstone, a firm specializing in assisting organizations and investors in the evaluation of capital transactions, to purchase this property.

The University is financing the purchase through working capital funds. Working capital funds represent liquid assets, other than endowment investments, state funds or cash used for day-to-day operations.

It is unknown when a final decision will be made by the bankruptcy court and therefore when UD will officially own the property. If approved by the Bankruptcy Court, this purchase of property, located west of South College Avenue across from UD's South Campus, marks the largest single addition to the Newark campus in the University's history. Currently, the University's Newark campus occupies 968 acres and is home to 352 buildings, including 172 academic buildings, 11 residence hall complexes and 45 administrative buildings.