Medical facility takes shape: Commercial development booming along Del. 1 in Milford

Silicato Development is nearing completion on a medical building near Grotto Pizza and Royal Farms off Del. 1 in Milford. Special to the Delaware State News/Ariane Mueller

MILFORD — There’s a lot of commercial development happening in Milford, and that growth may be clearest to those passing by the town’s Silicato Parkway exit off Del. 1.

That’s where Silicato Development is nearing completion on a medical building near Grotto Pizza and Royal Farms.

“It’s projected that the building will be completed at the end of 2020, so we will be starting a few of the tenant build-outs soon,” said Nicole Silicato Miller, the vice president of Silicato Development.

She hopes the facility will bring 50 to 60 new jobs to the area and said the building is already 25% leased out.

“I’m not releasing the tenant names yet, but we do have local family practitioners who are leasing in the building, and a boutique pharmacy … about to sign a lease, which is something I really wanted to do on the first floor,” Ms. Silicato Miller said.

A Dolce café will be located in the lobby, supplementing its main location in downtown Milford.

“I wanted to have a boutique pharmacy with the coffee shop so you can do that one-stop shopping in the building,” Ms. Silicato Miller said. “You can go to your family practice, you can go to pharmacy and you can grab a sandwich, and it’ll be a nice, pleasant experience.”

She thought a local coffee shop with a good reputation in the community would suit her vision best.

“I reached out to Stephenie and Dean Tatman,” Dolce’s owners, Ms. Silicato Miller said, “and they were extremely interested. They signed an intent to be in the building a year and a half ago, before the plans were even done.”

Ms. Tatman hopes the new location will attract beach traffic.

“When I as a consumer ride down Route 1, there’s really not anything from the beaches to New Castle County as far as a place to get a really great cup of coffee or a treat aside from a gas station,” she said. “We see that as a really great advantage and look at it as an opportunity to give people a taste of what is in downtown Milford.”

Ms. Tatman intends to put a different twist on Dolce’s offerings at the new location.

“Since it’s in a healthcare facility, we wanted to be really mindful of the product we’re offering there,” she said. “What we’re thinking is offering some of the favorites that we serve in our downtown location … but then putting a greater emphasis on healthier alternatives.”

Ms. Tatman said the new location, which will employ between two and four full-time workers, will include fruit bowls and a smoothie bar.

As a resident, Ms. Tatman was happy with all the new medical space coming online around town, which includes Bayhealth Hospital’s new and expanding Sussex Campus as well as Innovation Park, another large tract of land near the hospital zoned for potential medical uses.

“I think it speaks to the demographic that’s living in Milford,” she said. “We probably attract more retirees.”

Ms. Silicato Miller agreed.

“The population in Sussex County is aging so much and I’ve heard from so many people with interest in medical space that I’m hoping the supply is just keeping up with the demand and it’s not being overdone,” she said.

“A doctor friend of mine said the need was really great,” Ms. Silicato Miller said. “Most medical offices in Milford are just old homes and, especially with the new hospital being built, a new building like this would benefit the community.”

Rob Pierce, Milford’s planning and economic development director, agreed that the new spaces were meeting an unsatisfied demand for standalone medical spaces.

“I would say the overall feeling from the city would be positive, as it is with most of the development in these areas,” he said.” We want to see all of these uses constructed and providing services to residents of the community.”

Still, he said the facility’s distance from where most residents live makes it less ideal for some uses.

“I think Bayhealth may have an opinion that it’s best to have some of the practitioners closer to the residential areas or within the communities themselves.” Mr. Pierce said.

They will likely keep their existing offices located throughout the town open.

This artist rendering shows what the Dolce cafe location will look like inside the medical facility’s lobby. Submitted sketch

“There is a benefit to having medical offices embedded in the residential areas, because it’s easier access for some residents,” Mr. Pierce said.

But Ms. Silicato Miller said the spaces her new building will provide are a cut above the facilities that already exist, both in quality and amenities.

“We’re going to have sound-proof drywall and the coffee shop and the pharmacy there. Just a lot of things that Milford has never been offered before,” she said.

But that’s not the only building going up on Silicato Parkway. Workers have quickly framed out what will soon be a 77-room Microtel brand hotel, which the owner expects to bring between 15 and 22 jobs to the area.

“We are hoping to be open come late March,” said Chad Moore, the owner of Beacon Hospitality, which is constructing and will run the facility. He said the Microtel brand is oriented “toward someone that kind of wants to get in and get out and is not going to be staying in their hotel the whole time, which is a perfect fit for Milford.”

He sees the Milford market for overnight stays as underserved.

“With the expansion that (the town is) going through, I thought they were primed to have another hotel property,” Mr. Moore said.
He said Beacon Hospitality bought the site from Silicato Development two and a half years ago.

“We had looked at several different sites, and this site made the most sense,” he said. “It’s in the town of Milford, which is very nice, you’re on the highway, which is very nice and you’re in between the hospital and the fields, which is also a very nice place to be.”

Mr. Moore identified business travelers, overflow beach traffic, those visiting loved ones at nearby medical facilities and those attending sporting events at one of several nearby athletic facilities as potential guests.

In addition to the DE Turf Facility near Frederica, he imagined that other athletic facilities like Sports by the Beach in Georgetown and the Factory Sports Complex near Lewes would bring customers to his business.

Just up Del. 1, north of Milford city limits on Old Cemetery Road, another development envisioned as featuring lodging, retail and a water park to serve the DE Turf facility is being planned.

“Our long-range annexation plan doesn’t extend up far to encompass that particular project,” Mr. Pierce said.

But he didn’t believe that plot of land was in a better position to be developed than anywhere along Del. 1 within Milford’s city limits.

“Milford has about 275 acres of vacant highway commercial along Route 1 at interchanges that have already been constructed by the state, so they have safe and efficient access to Route 1,” Mr. Pierce said.

He also noted that Milford proper already has adequate utility services set up.

“A lot of times if folks are looking to develop in the city, they’re essentially dealing with one entity for a lot of the utility functions, which makes it a lot of times more preferable … because it’s more of a one-stop shop,” Mr. Pierce said.

“We think Milford is in a good position to grow,” he said, summing up the city government’s view.

Reach staff writer Noah Zucker at nzucker@newszap.com