The Town of Whitehall is the first new town in Delaware in more than a century, and it is changing the way we think about development and what it can do for a community. With the announcement that ChristianaCare is coming to Whitehall, developers are gearing up for a big 2020. In addition to their summer music series, beer garden, Family Fireworks Night, and Vet Fest, the developers plan to keep rolling out new and exciting plans all year long. The core of Whitehall is not just housing, it’s ideas. It’s a lifestyle.
Tree lined streets, dogs in the park, walking to school, knowing the doctor who practices in the neighborhood, getting a “drink” with friends and strolling home, watching fireworks from the porch, and throwing confetti from the yard during a parade all sound like tales from long ago. But according to co-developer of the Town of Whitehall and EDiS CEO Brian DiSabatino, “Our goal was to bring the best of America back and rekindle the flame that made us great.”
The Intersection of Community, Education, Wellness, Arts, and Entertainment
DiSabatino reports that, “We are excited that ChristianaCare, the state’s largest healthcare provider, sees our vision.” According to DiSabatino, the 20,000-square-foot Whitehall Wellness and Professional Center will be open in 2021 and will feature primary care services for both Whitehall and the region. Echoing DiSabatino’s enthusiasm, Mike Eppehimer, MHSA, FACHE, president of the Christiana Care Medical Group stated, “We are on a mission to deliver the right care, at the right place for everyone, in all the communities we serve. Being situated in the center of Delaware’s newest walkable and bikeable community enables us to serve our neighbors in the most literal sense. We look forward to being expert, caring partners in health to the families of Whitehall and the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The Whitehall Wellness and Professional Center is one of the many incremental building blocks that have been in the works for nearly 15 years. DiSabatino and his development partner, Richard Julian, Jr. of Eastern States Development, placed the Whitehall Wellness and Professional Center as well as the 800-student Lorewood Grove Elementary School within the town’s Mapleton Park. This park has featured fireworks, played a central role in Vet Fest, a festival benefitting veteran groups, hosted kids’ arts events, and has even served as an “outdoor gym” to fitness enthusiasts. DiSabatino likes to say that, “When planning, we knew that education, health, and art needed to sit at the intersection of community.” It appears that the developers have achieved that goal.
The Old Development Paradigm
Building a new town from scratch isn’t something done every day. Certainly, there are master planned communities, but founders DiSabatino and Julian wanted something special for Delaware. “I grew up in the 70s and 80s and people always complained about suburban sprawl,” DiSabatino said. “Rich and I found a concept that we thought would be something we’d enjoy and would leave a positive legacy in Delaware. But we didn’t have to look far. It already existed in Historic New Castle, Rehoboth, and other great places in Delaware. We wanted to bring back the walkable village and connect people once again. We were determined to build a ‘place.’ We wanted to bring life to the front porch!” DiSabatino and Julian spent years planning with insight from designers such as Andres Duany, Mike Watkins, Howard Blackson, and Geoff Dyer. They also leaned on the expertise of attorney Larry Tarabicos who counseled them on how to deliver something special. “I’ve been really impressed with Rich and Brian. They have taken their time and developed something, the right way. They took the long view and are very thoughtful of the legacy they are leaving, including the impact on education, wellness, the environment, and transportation. The most prominent thing that strikes me about Whitehall is the quality of the community and the materials used in the construction of the homes and other buildings. Unlike most residential subdivisions in the area, Whitehall is unique and stands out as a special place with longevity and sustainability.”
Seeing into the Future, For Mom
According to DiSabatino, he’s had a passion to deliver a better experience for seniors. “When we began this project, my mom was still alive. I really wanted her to live at Whitehall because I wanted to create something new. I struggled that one of the options I’d have to face with her was to possibly send her to an ‘all-inclusive cruise ship in the cornfield.’ Rather, I wanted to create an experience for her in Whitehall that history has shown us works well. I wanted to disaggregate all of the components of the old CCRC and put them on Main Street. The partnership we have with ChristianaCare now makes that possible to discuss.” DiSabatino is now working on the idea that seniors could someday access healthcare, enjoy the arts, and socialize over dinner at the center of Whitehall. And with a little creativity, perhaps they could utilize telemedicine to afford them more independence as they age in a place they love.
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