Western Sussex eyes development: Several communities have major plans in store for 2021

Renovation and new construction are in the plans for Sussex Montessori School, which opened in September 2020 off Stein Highway in Seaford. Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe

WESTERN SUSSEX — Coastal and Central Sussex County do not have a monopoly on progress and growth in Southern Delaware.

Things are already happening on the western side of the county with more plans in store for 2021.

In Greenwood, two separate subdivisions that would bring 55 new dwellings accommodating home-owning senior citizens as well as families are in the 2021 pipeline, along with a strong possibility of a new restaurant locating on the “island” between northbound/southbound U.S. 13 adjacent to the Greenwood Volunteer Fire Company.

“There are several things going on here in little old Greenwood,” said Greenwood Town Manager Hal Godwin.

Municipalities to the south have definite hopes for the coming year.

While business/commercial development has been slow, brisk home building continues in Laurel, which also has several community-based enhancement projects, according to Laurel Mayor John Shwed.

“The thing that is working well for Laurel right now is we are enjoying a residential housing boom. We have built more single family homes in the town of Laurel than we have in the past eight years. It is the highest number of homes. So that’s a good thing,” said Mayor Shwed.

“In terms of the business we’ve got some things in the works. I really can’t say anything because they haven’t finished their deals yet, but we are expecting some businesses to show up on the Route 13 corridor and hopefully that is going to happen in 2021. They got delayed by the COVID 19 mess the past year.

“Laurel needs that (new business) very badly,” Mayor Shwed said. “We’ve got to have a shot in the arm.”

A new convenience store may be arriving in the outer limits of the town of Blades, Seaford’s neighbor to the south.

“As far as I know, 7-Eleven is planning on being at the corner of Route 13 and Concord Road, where Flagship (Restaurant) was,”
said Blades town administrator Lisa Marks. “Everything has gotten slowed down … a change of pace with the coronavirus.”

Blades’ 2021 plans include an upgrade of the town water plant, Ms. Marks said.

This longtime Sussex Highway landmark, most recently The Flagship Restaurant, may be the future site of a 7-Eleven convenience store on the outskirts of Blades.

In Seaford, the new year is expected to usher in the phased start of the Western Sussex Business Campus, initial phases of the Oyster House Project along with continued residential and commercial development.

“If I had a crystal ball, there are some things in the works that I know about but not allowed to talk about,” said City of Seaford Mayor David Genshaw.

While information could not be obtained from the towns of Bridgeville and Delmar, here’s what the 2021 crystal bill has in line for other municipalities along the U.S. 13 corridor.

Greenwood

Mr. Godwin said the two subdivisions have been approved.

“One is senior housing where the seniors own the property with some sort of government assistance. It is going to be operated by Milford Housing, which is a pretty active senior citizen assist organization,” Mr. Godwin said. “That is going to yield 17 new homes for folks over 55. All their approvals are in place so they can start building anytime. I expect to see that begin this spring.”

In addition, 38 more single-family owned homes are in the approval process by Bay to Beach Builders, which is housed in Greenwood. These waterfront homes will finalize a development called The Cove, to be built around a pond on the northeast corner of town.

“Part of that development was built 25 years ago, and the builder went broke,” said Mr. Godwin. “The subdivision has sat idle for at least 23 or 24 years waiting for someone else to finish it up.”

Mr. Godwin said the town also has been contacted by several developers with interest on the north end of U.S. 13, zoned highway commercial.

“Plus we’re expecting the Western Sussex Sewer District to be completed at the later end of 2021,” said Mr. Godwin.

Greenwood’s wastewater currently still goes to operation in Bridgeville, that has been taken over by Sussex County, which is extending the sewer main to Seaford.

“The wastewater will not be treated in Bridgeville and sprayed on Bridgeville farms. It will be transferred on down to Seaford,” said Mr. Godwin. “The advantage for the environment is Seaford’s wastewater plant is the latest high-technology. So the wastewater is treated to the highest standards that the EPA require.”

Mr. Godwin noted residential development will greatly increase the town’s population.

“This is a community of 1,100 people, roughly 500 dwellings. I am expecting to see 55 new dwellings this coming year,” he said. “There are all those things on the east side of the county. People flock there for various reasons. Then they leave in September. We’re hoping to grow Greenwood with folks that don’t leave. And we think that we have a chance for that.”

Laurel

The scenic Broad Creek is the focal point of several major projects in Laurel expected to move forward in the new year.

One is The Ramble, along the scenic waterfront.

“The town and its partners, the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation, we’ve got a $200,000 grant from the state to help us start what is called the Tidewater Park, a native American theme park on the north side of Broad Creek across from Pizza King,” Mayor Shwed said.

Replacement of the deteriorating brick walkway through Janosik Park along Broad Creek is among several pending Laurel projects.

The park project includes an educational component and a section for smaller children.

The town and the LRC also received a grant from the Delaware Department of Transportation to improve the walkway stretching from the end of Janosik Park where the Mill Dam spillway starts over to Central Avenue.

“As part of the Community Transportation Program we’re going to put new walkways from Mill Dam end of Janosik Park up to Central Avenue. Eventually that walkway is going to continue across the other side of Central Avenue down along the south bank of the Broad Creek and west to Roger Fisher Park. We at least got funding for this first leg,” Mayor Shwed said.

Through partnership with the Laurel Historical Society and the LRC, 2021 could see restoration of one of Laurel’s most significant landmarks — Rosemont, childhood home of Gov. Nathaniel Mitchell, the 16th governor of Delaware who served from 1805-1808.

The home is on Delaware Avenue. Gov. Mitchell was 10 years old when this house was built. He was captain of a Delaware company during the American Revolution, fought in the Battle of Brandywine and wintered in Valley Forge. Captured in Virginia in 1781, he was held prisoner until after the Battle of Yorktown.

“A lot of promise, a lot of actual good things in the works,” said Mayor Shwed. “I’m hoping it’s going be a brighter year.”

Seaford

Property along the Nanticoke River and undeveloped land on the city’s northern sector are on the project docket.

The Western Sussex Business Campus, announced by the city in early December, will go out to bid in early 2021 with hopes of dirt being moved in the spring.

The business campus is a proposed complex for commercial, industrial and manufacturing activity on a plot of 100-plus acres off Herring Road and Ross Station Road.

City of Seaford Mayor David Genshaw is hopeful 2021 will bring firm development interest in the Nylon Capital Shopping Center.

Under the approved proposal, Sussex County will assist the city in funding the necessary infrastructure improvements to the property that will lay the foundation for companies to locate to the park, bringing new jobs, increased property values, and direct and indirect economic effects to the area.

Sussex officials have pledged county funding, not to exceed $1.88 million, as its portion of the investment with the city, which presently owns the land, contributing $600,000 to the project. Additional funds are under consideration in Seaford’s FY2022 budget.

The yet-to-be-identified developer, in turn, would construct a 50,000-square-foot commercial building within 18 months following contract approval. This investment is estimated between $4 million to $5 million and they will market the new facility to prospective tenants.

While the city has not identified the prospective business campus developer, Mayor David Genshaw says the developers are “high quality, full of integrity people, so they will do what they say they are going to do.”

Along the Nanticoke, equipment is in place to start construction on the Oyster House Project. By spring or early summer, the Riverwalk will be extended, the fishing pier will be in and waterfront part of the Oyster House Project will be developed, Mayor Genshaw said.

Equipment is in place for the start of the first phase in the Oyster House Project along the Nanticoke River in Seaford.

There might also be developing news regarding the Nylon Capital Shopping Center, a once bustling commercial beehive along Stein Highway that has been pretty much vacant for years.

“We had some significant interest in the property in January or February of 2020. We were putting things together to make that happen and then COVID hit and the person we were talking to is a major retail developer. COVID has kind of wiped out the thoughts of retail,” said Mayor Genshaw.

There has been interest in the Nylon center from other developers.

“I continue to have a lot of hope that that property is going to be developed,” said Mayor Genshaw. “It already has all the city services. It just needs a major facelift and overhaul.”

On the construction front, Sussex Montessori School, which opened in September, has renovation/new construction plans and a new Wawa convenience store is in the works.

Expectations for 2021 include the forward movement of infrastructure up U.S. 13 on the north side from Walmart to Old Furnace Road, continued development of the U.S. 13 corridor and a third building for the River Place gated apartment community.

“The housing market is booming in Seaford and Sussex,” Mayor Genshaw said. “People are looking to escape the high tax northeast or the cities. Sussex County is an affordable place and a beautiful place to retire to. I think we are going to continue to see — maybe not at the pace as the eastern side of the county — continued demands on housing here in Seaford and Western Sussex.”

The mayor believes that teamwork and working with neighboring towns and Sussex County are key.

“Maybe it’s just me and maybe it’s just the time or whatever, but I do see us all working more together, whether it’s Georgetown, Seaford, Milford talking about how we do things better. Or whether it’s Bridgeville, Greenwood, Seaford and Blades working together as a group to pull our resources together to make things happen,” said Mayor Genshaw. “Or just like we did recently, with Seaford and Sussex County. I think we have got to figure out ways to partner with each other and support each other in meeting our shared visions for Sussex County to really make things happen. I don’t think Blades or Seaford or any of us can do anything on our own.”