Federal grant will help to refurbish Smyrna buildings

Thanks to a USDA $300,000 loan, several Smyrna properties at  2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 Main St. will be renovated. The yellow building was originally built in the 1700s and will be transformed into a restaurant/tavern and the other three buildings will be converted to public meeting space. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

Thanks to a USDA $300,000 loan, several Smyrna properties at 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 Main St. will be renovated. The yellow building was originally built in the 1700s and will be transformed into a restaurant/tavern and the other three buildings will be converted to public meeting space. (Delaware State News/Ashton Brown)

SMYRNA — Frequenters of Main Street in Smyrna soon will see a downtown landmark, a three-story yellow Victorian, transition from a decaying relic into a new business, the Inn at Duck Creek.

A $300,000 Rural Economic Development Loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to fund the project was announced Tuesday by USDA Deputy Under Secretary Vernita Dore and USDA Rural Development State Director Bill McGowan.

“I have been so taken with the charm of Smyrna,” Ms. Dore said. “This grant will increase economic opportunity and quality of life. It will also make Smyrna a safe, healthy and prosperous place and I’m delighted to be a part of it.”

The zero-interest Rural Economic Development Loan is a revolving loan, meaning the USDA’s funding will not only be used to improve a building but will play into improving downtown Smyrna’s economy by creating jobs, benefiting a business where people spend their money and bringing life to an area where many businesses have moved out of downtown.

“Many times you drive through a small town and think ‘what a shame so many businesses have moved outside downtown,’ ” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said at the announcement. “Smyrna will now have a remarkably bright future and by August, you will already be able to see the stages of this project moving forward.”

Although the most notable portion of the project is the large yellow building at 2 Main St., the adjoining properties — at 4, 6 and 8 Main St. — also are part of the project. The four buildings share walls and a roof which recently has been redone with tin.

The aging buildings will need extensive repairs and improvements but i3a LLC, the construction firm for the project, plans on maintaining the historical integrity of the structure.

“The building dates back to the 1700s but in the 1800s it had some improvements made,” said Ed Ide, i3a president. “We are going to preserve as much as we can, like the hardwood floors and molding, but will need to replace some windows and obviously improve some things like the HVAC (heating-air conditioning) system. But the improvements will keep the historic look alive.”

The first floor of 2 Main St. will become a restaurant and tavern while the most extensive renovations will be on the second and third floors. Those will be transformed into space available public use for things like classes, training, meetings, projects and special events. The total area that will be improved from the loan is about 3,500 square feet.

No estimate was given as to the cost of construction on the property but Rep. John Carney, D-Del., said that many towns usually shy away from projects involving old buildings because of the cost and commitment required. The grant will alleviate some of Smyrna’s concerns, he said.

Previously, the space has housed an optometry office, an antique shop, a hair salon and apartments.

Levy Court President Brooks Banta lived with his family on the second and third floor of 2 Main St. when he was about 10 years old.

“I lived here back when rent was only $35 a month when I was a kid, so it’s going to be nice to see the whole thing restored and improved.”

Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten has focused on economic growth in the town and considers securing the loan to be a major stepping-stone in improving historic downtown Smyrna.

“I was born, raised and educated in Smyrna and I’m very proud of it,” she said. “We need everyone to know that Smyrna is not only open for business but for economic growth as well.”

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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