Farmers market planned for old Smyrna factory

The old factory on 655 W. Glenwood Avenue in Smyrna may soon get renovated and used as a farmers market, the property owners say.
(Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

SMYRNA —The large, approximately 170,000-square-foot factory sitting on 12 acres just west of downtown on 655 W. Glenwood Ave. that’s sat unused for nearly a decade may soon be bursting with life.

After a multi-year process of negotiation, acquisition and navigating regulatory approvals, the property’s owners Randy Dawson and Sheak Shah of Shadaw Enterprises LLC, hope to begin renovating the massive building early next year to accommodate a 60-70 stall indoor farmers market, warehousing and possibly light industrial space.

Because of its past manufacturing uses — Harris Manufacturing, Eagle Group-Metal Masters and Tyler Refrigeration to name a few — the property had a number of Environmental Protection Agency alerts associated with it. Many thought the property would sit unused until it wasted away, noted Mr. Shah.

“We saw an underutilized property that had a history of contamination and it was sitting right across the street from property we own,” he said. “No one had expressed much interest in it because many thought it was irreparable. But, after looking into it and talking to Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, the EPA, environmental engineers and the town of Smyrna, it turned out that a lot of the remediation had already been done.”

The investment duo also owns the Glenwood Plaza shopping center across the street.

Over the course of a year, Shadaw Enterprises was able to get the project to qualify for the “Brownfields” program — a federal program that provides grants, resources and assistance to safely reuse contaminated properties.

“It took us awhile, but we were able to get it through Brownfields and eventually get the federal EPA tag removed,” said Mr. Shah. “We ultimately got a letter from the EPA saying they were satisfied with the status of the property.”

According to the town of Smyrna, preliminary site plan approval has been given and only a few regulatory hurdles remain before ground can be broken on the project

“They’re through the initial planning phase where they’ve met with the planning and zoning commission and have preliminary approval for the site,” said the town’s building inspections manager George DeBenedictis. “They’re working through some final provisions now from our office and the town engineer. They’re also gathering the last few outside agency approvals they need like the fire marshal and DelDOT. Once that’s done, they can start the process of improving the lot and renovating the structure.”

Long zoned an industrial lot in Kent County, the town of Smyrna actually annexed the parcel recently and changed it to a commercial zoning. With a brighter future on the horizon, support is growing for the endeavor.

Both Mr. DeBenedictis and town manager Gary Stulir say they’ve heard “nothing but positive feedback” from the community about the project.

“Staff and counsel both have been very supportive of the project too,” said Mr. Stulir. “It’s been vacant for a long time so we’re all very excited to see that area get revitalized.”

What’s next?

Mr. Shah says it’s hard to calculate the renovation investment costs, but he’s hoping to have the work on the property complete sometime next year.

“We don’t know what the total investment will be, but the HVAC, electric and other utilities and sitework will be an extensive undertaking,” he said. “There is a fair amount of work to be done inside and some roofs to be replaced as well — this is sat empty for a long time so a lot of those things have been neglected. However, if everything falls into place as expected, we’re hoping to be done with the work by spring of next year.”

About 50 percent of the interior space will be devoted to farmer’s market-style booths, with the remaining portion possibly being rented out as warehouse and light industrial space, Mr. Shah says.

“We think having a lot of local and regional vendors will bring a lot of business to Smyrna — hopefully we’ll be able to attract some of the Amish population in the area as well to set up in the building as well,” he added.

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