Imagine going for a walk down to the Four Corners in downtown Smyrna on a Saturday morning. You make a stop at the local Farmer’s Market. You pop in to the Heart of Smyrna for some knit knacks. Then there’s Oh Phoebe’s for lunch and a stop at the local bakery for a treat later in the day.
Could this be a reality for downtown Smyrna in the future? Only time will tell but there are a few projects in the works that could help revitalize the downtown area.
Projects in the works
The Smyrna Public Library Guild is in the process of purchasing land on East Commerce Street and South East Street for the new library. Town employees and residents are working with the state to start a farmer’s market in June. The Smyrna/Clayton July 4th Association will hold their first annual Smyrna/Clayton Craft Beer, Wine & Food Festival.
All the while Town Manager Dave Hugg said that there are several projects in discussion but some are getting more traction than others. There’s some consideration for senior housing and possible a senior center, and an investor is interested in a vacant lot on West Commerce Street. Hugg also said the town is looking for a way to increase parking downtown. Therefore, while there are some vacancies downtown, there are a lot of viable businesses and projects in the works as well.
“The message is that it’s [downtown] not dead, it’s not dying,” Hugg said.
Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association president Jim Hawkins said there are a lot of opportunities for improvement in downtown.
“I think we have some successful businesses and some homeowners who do a great job of maintaining their home and making them beautiful,” Hawkins said. “But there are some challenges among them – absentee landlords who do not take good care of properties and some empty store fronts but I think those challenges can be opportunities.”
A vision for the future
Visions for the downtown area vary depending on whom you talk to but some of the town committees are working on the future of downtown. While the Business Development Committee works with town consultant Rick Ferrell to bring in new businesses, the Long Range Planning Committee is working on the actual vision for the Four Corners.
Long Range Planning Committee chairman Jeff Flairty, who is on town council, decided to bring forth the idea of a vision for downtown because of the possible forthcoming projects.
Page 2 of 2 - “I don’t think the town has ever considered what it wants in the downtown region. Wouldn’t it be great to have a roadmap for David [Hugg] and the planning department with an understanding of what the town wants,” Flairty said.
His goal is for the committee to take a comprehensive plan to council with what the town wants by the end of the year. Then Flairty wants to bring all the different groups together from community groups to council to town employees to define the goal for downtown.
“My goal is to push people together so we can create something for downtown,” Flairty said.
Where do we go from here?
One common suggestion to help push forward the revitalization effort for downtown is the idea of bringing back a Main Street Program to Smyrna.
Diane Laird, state coordinator for the Downtown Delaware office, said Smyrna had a Main Street Program from 2002 to 2005 and there’s always an opportunity to reapply. The town is considered a commercial district affiliate, which basically means Smyrna is implementing strategies for business development.
A Main Street Program is an economic development program, which helps communities build up their downtown. Hugg said a lot of the successful towns in the area have a strong Main Street Program or a Chamber of Commerce, neither of which Smyrna has.
“Middletown, Milford, Dover and Newark have very strong Main Street programs. They are towns that are being successful, there’s got to be a connection there,” Hugg said.
Hawkins said that recently the lines of communication have increased, and that there needs to be a public and private partnership with the residents, community groups and local government to really push for a downtown revitalization.
“While it will take a lot of work, I think the potential is great. And if we work together, in 10 years we’ll be amazed at how wonderful downtown is,” Hawkins said.
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.