SMYRNA — It has taken almost 20 years to get to this point.
But the Duck Creek Business Campus in Smyrna has its first building — nearly 70,000 square feet — almost completed, and KRM Development Corp. is actively seeking tenants.
The complex, situated between U.S. 13 and Del. 1 in north Smyrna, has come a long way over the past couple of years.
But actually, the dream of building a light industrial business park just north of Duck Creek began back in 2003, when KRM Development invested in a 220-acre plot of farmland. The site was leased out to soybean and corn farmers until KRM could get all its ducks in a row to construct the campus.
“We have been working on this project for a long time,” said Jesse Parks, vice president at KRM Development, who is in charge of the project. “We were finally able to get a piece of property that allowed us to get to (putting in an) entrance off (U.S.) 13 and then was able to work with the state and Smyrna on getting all of our approvals.
“It was really just a timing thing. We were able to get the site work and this first building up. The timing worked out finally, and everything lined up so that we could get it done.”
One of the biggest keys to proceeding with DCBC was securing entrances on northbound U.S. 13, just north of Duck Creek, and on Paddock Road, just east of U.S. 13.
Richard Goodall, CEO of KRM Development, the real estate arm of the Chestertown, Maryland-based Dixon Group, remembered his first time visiting the Smyrna property back in 2003.
“We were working on a building in Chestertown, Maryland, at the time, and Ron Athey (then-president of KRM Development) heard that we just had to check out Smyrna,” Mr. Goodall said. “We ended up buying this huge piece of land, and I’m standing out here and wondering what’s the price farmers would rent for soybeans until we build on it.”
Once the first warehouse on the campus opens — hopefully by the end of the year, according to Mr. Parks — others are planned to follow.
Based on land configuration, DCBC could eventually have a footprint of 1 million to 1.5 million square feet. Developers have estimated up to 4,000 jobs and $477 million in economic development to Smyrna if the site attracts the companies they are expecting.
KRM Development has already created two business campuses, one in Chestertown and another near the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Stevensville, Maryland.
“We buy land, build buildings, and we own them and lease them,” said Bryan Matthews, vice president of KRM Development. “That’s a little different. Most of the time, the builder will build it but then sell it. We will be invested in this project for the long haul.
“KRM has owned the property for a long time. For multiple reasons, it hasn’t been the right time to build. Last year, we were ready, and we started reengaging with the different government agencies,” Mr. Matthews said. “We’ve had great support from the state legislature and the town of Smyrna.”
Mr. Parks said he has spoken to a wide array of companies who are interested in the campus — in particular, light manufacturing companies, distribution facilities and businesses in need of warehouse space.
“This is more of a light industrial, flex building with a distribution type of use,” he said. “We build these buildings to be flexible, so we can break them up into multiple tenants. We also have some larger businesses coming in and looking, so it could potentially be a single tenant.
“We try to be as flexible as possible to fit what the market needs.”
The DCBC property is zoned Industrial Office Research Park, the same as the Smyrna Business Park on Wheatleys Pond Road.
Mr. Parks is confident that, based on the companies he has met, the right deal will come along soon to really get the ball rolling on DCBC.
“It’s just a matter of finding a tenant,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of interest. There aren’t a whole lot of buildings that size, especially new construction in the area, so there’s been a lot of interest. Anybody who is kind of looking in that area for something close to that size, it’s certainly on their radar.”
He added that Smyrna’s location has been a plus.
“I think overall, with that part of the state (Smyrna) being centrally located, that people are looking at that,” said Mr. Parks. “Maybe they’ve got facilities up north or down south in the state, and they could move into one location.
“The proximity to Dover and the Air Force base … we know that in some cases, there’s companies that are attracted to that, in addition to businesses just continuing to come south from New Jersey and farther north in Delaware.”
Mr. Matthews is confident that KRM Development’s investment and business model will pay off. After all, it has before.
“Our business park by the Chesapeake Bay has a couple hundred businesses and a couple of thousand people working there, and we started 20 years ago with one building,” he said.