Smyrna seeks continued but smart growth

KRM Flex Building under construction at the Duck Creek Business Campus in Smyrna.
KRM Flex Building under construction at the Duck Creek Business Campus in Smyrna.
Delaware State News/Marc Clery
Posted

SMYRNA — A decade from now, Smyrna’s population could perhaps be double from the current 11,000 or so residents situated in the northern Kent County town.

A host of residential and commercial development is ongoing, with more ground slated to be broken in the coming years, town officials say.

“Smyrna is positioned right now to have development, redevelopment and growth for the next five to 10 years when you look at our comprehensive plan,” according to town manager Andrew Haines.

“It’s conveniently placed in geographic way on (Del. 1 and U.S. 13 roadways) and you’re seeing a southern movement of population.

“Smyrna doesn’t necessarily want the same growth that Middletown (around 12 miles to the north) is experiencing but we’re trying to experience some smart growth from an infrastructure and development standpoint.”

Approved projects that are under construction include:

• Firestone Tire Center (6,575 square feet) at the intersection of Cory Lane/U.S. 13.

• KRM Flex Building (69,000 square feet) in the Duck Creek Business Park.

• Smyrna Smiles (18,580 square feet medical office building) on Huntfield Drive in the area of Brenford Road and U.S. 13.

• Smyrna Farmers Market, (a renovation of 170,000 square feet) at the Harris Manufacturing Building at 655 W. Glenwood Ave. to be occupied as a multi-tenant farmers market.

Approved but not yet under construction is the Liborio Project at 1165 S. Dupont Blvd., which includes two mixed-use buildings and one apartment building including 12,000 square feet retail and 48 apartments.

Pending a final review, the Simons Corner apartment complex will include 270 apartment units in 10 buildings at 499 Jimmy Drive near the Simons Corner Shopping Center.

Also under final review is the Carter Road Professional Center, which will bring 49,800 square feet of office space in three buildings at 1099 S. Carter Road.

The 709-single family residence and townhouse Graceville major subdivision along Rabbit Chase Lane is under preliminary review by the planning commission. The development was a redesign of a 430-lot subdivision that was previously approved in 2006.

The Gateway North mixed-use project, a three-story mixed-use building including 16,000 square feet of retail space and 32 apartments, is also in the development process, according to the town. It is adjacent to the Quality Inn at 190 Stadium St.

Additionally, the town anticipates a 25,000-plus square-foot expansion of the Delaware Public Health Lab along Sunnyside Road.

More health-related sites are needed, Mr. Haines said, mentioning Bayhealth and Christiana Care Health facilities as potential arrivals if circumstances allow.

A study through the Kent Economic Partnership indicated “that a significant amount of our residents are leaving town for medical services. So we are trying to be as supportive of attempting to expand the medical services of this community because we see that it’s an exit to the community that could be retained,” he said.

According to the town manager “We’re not trying to open up medical facilities ourselves but want to make sure from a land development standpoint that we let those facilities know that we are ready and willing to work with them.”

There’s a Starbucks Coffee coming to 1350 S. DuPont Boulevard. Mr. Haines said the project began last week and there’s no set date for opening.

As the town’s planning commission (consisting of residents) worked on updating the municipality’s comprehensive plan, Mr. Haines was encouraged that residents were afforded access to online surveys.

“That was an opportunity, though not project specific, to allow residents to have a voice on the use of land and what future use will be. It was a very engaging process,” he said.

Mayor Robert Johnson wants to see more community input, noting that attendance at town council meetings where decisions are made remains sparse. He’s working with Mr. Haines to create a public survey seeking citizen opinion on their quality of life views for Smyrna, including the perceived impact of growth in the community.

Currently, Mayor Johnson said, there’s about a “50-50 mix” of citizens happy with the ongoing expansion within town boundaries.

“We have a small amount of people that we actually hear from, so we have to incorporate some sort of mechanism so we have a better understanding of what they want,” said the mayor, who graduated from Smyrna High in 1971 when the population was around 3,000 and remembers when the town center was one square block.

Many of the new residents are arriving from New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Mayor Johnson said.

“They’re coming for the housing, they’re coming for the quality of life,” he said. “A lot of people are getting out of the cities because of the quality of life. I lived in Philadelphia for a long time - 10 years - and people are tired of the crime. They want reduced taxes on their property; they want a place where their children can be safe.

“They’re coming here and retiring and they want to be safe and have a comfortable quality of life.”

The town’s citizen-driven planning commission and town council have plotted a solid path forward, Mr. Haines said. Also, town council “is a great representation (of the community).

“Their diversity and breadth of engagement is strongly reflective of the community itself and (that’s how it’s) led from a government standpoint.”

Now eight months into his stint as town manager, Mr. Haines believes Smyrna can still retain a close-knit existence even with continuing growth.

“It’s not cliche to way there’s a ‘Smyrna Strong, Smyrna Pride’ (feeling here),” he said. “It’s tangible, you can see it.

“I see it among council. The community wants to be smart with its growth. It doesn’t want growth for the sake of growth. It wants to maintain that heritage.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at 741-8296 or canderson@newszap.com.