The building at 655 W. Glenwood Avenue in Smyrna was once used by Harris Manufacturing, Eagle Group-Metal Masters and Tyler Refrigeration.

A farmers’ market could be sprouting in a long-vacant factory on West Glenwood Avenue in Smyrna.

The building at 655 W. Glenwood Avenue, once used by Harris Manufacturing, Eagle Group-Metal Masters and Tyler Refrigeration, was annexed into Smyrna town limits a few months ago, at the request of the new owners, Shadaw Enterprises of Wilmington. Shadaw Enterprises bought the property from Linton Hill Partners of Newtown, Pennsylvania which leased the space to the last company that operated at the site, Harris Manufacturing.

Sheak Shah of Shadaw Enterprises said he and his business partners hope to start renovations for the farmers’ market this fall with the opening tentatively planned for spring 2020.

The property recently annexed includes 11.22 acres and the 172,133 square-foot building. Shadaw Enterprises also bought one acre that borders the site which was already in town limits and a bordering property off North Street that has already been approved for 34 townhomes.

Shah said his company’s first priority is renovating the building to open the farmers’ market.

“We’ll be leasing spaces to individual vendors,” said Shah. “We will manage the space and provide services, including cleaning and maintenance. Ideally, we’d have a few key anchor tenants. With the Amish population in the area, hopefully we’ll have an Amish presence as well. We could have produce, food, furniture – it could be a variety of different stores.”

The owners also plan to lease warehouse space and possibly space for light manufacturing in the building.

Smyrna Mayor John L. Embert III said he’s looking forward to new life at the site.

“Anytime you get a vacant property filled it’s a good thing,” said Embert. “Vacant properties are a magnet for crime and neglect of property.”

He said while the site should bring in new revenue to the town, the annexation will also help Shadaw Enterprises because the property is now in Smyrna’s Downtown Development District and is eligible for funds from the state for redevelopment.

He’s optimistic about the potential for a farmers’ market.

“The plan as I have discussed with the owners seems to be a very solid plan that will give the residents of the Smyrna-Clayton area a great place to shop for fresh meats, produce and baked goods along with other shops,” Embert said. “After listening to the plan I'm excited to see it happen. I believe it will draw people to town. Once they are here for the farmers’ market, they will tour this wonderful community and see all it has to offer.”

‘Brownfield’ turns green

Years ago, the property had been classified as a “superfund” site by the Environmental Protection Agency because degreasers had been dumped in two pits at the site decades ago by Tyler Refrigeration, according to the EPA’s website.

“The investigation found groundwater contamination, but contamination did not appear to be related to the former disposal pits,” the EPA said.

After cleanups including soil removal, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) issued a final cleanup plan for the probable source area of contamination in October 1995.

“The plan concluded that contamination did not threaten people or the environment,” the EPA said.

Following site investigations, the EPA took the site off the Superfund program’s National Priorities List in 2004.

In March 2017, DNREC issued a public notice that the agency was entering into negotiations for a “brownfield” development agreement with Shadaw Enterprises. The brownfield program “provides grants and technical assistance to communities, states, tribes and others to assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties,” according to the EPA website.

In a Sun-Times interview in 2017, Patrick Boettcher, project manager with the DNREC Site Investigation and Restoration Section, said the brownfield program provides funding for properties viewed as “not desirable.”

“The goal is to get people to reuse property rather than using new land for development – to reuse these sites that are no longer productive,” said Boettcher.

The program reimburses developers, with some grants being dollar-for-dollar and some grants reimbursing developers 50 cents for every dollar spent.

“The site was investigated in the past,” he said. “Remedial action was taken. Some soil removal was done. It’s pretty much taken care of and in a monitoring phase. The monitoring has gone through two rounds of five-year reviews, where they took soil samples. It’s no longer a federal site. It’s considered a ‘brownfield.’”

Properties accepted in the brownfield program receive liability protection, Boettcher said.

“When someone comes in to a brownfield site and completes the required investigation, it gives them liability protection before development starts, so if anything is discovered during development, they won’t be held liable,” he said.

Shah said plan for the property has received approval from DNREC.

“All the regulatory agencies we work with have been very cooperative and helpful in the process, including DNREC, DelDOT and the Town of Smyrna,” said Shah.

He said he and his business partners want to bring this property back to life, create jobs and bring in businesses that benefit the community.

What’s next

George DeBenedictis, Smyrna manager of building and inspections, said the site plan process for the property is underway.

“They’ve already gone before the Planning and Zoning Commission and they’re making revisions as required,” DeBenedictis said.

Before annexation into the town, the property was zoned industrial by Kent County. Now, the property is zoned highway commercial, DeBenedictis said.

The building already had town utility service, but the owners were paying out-of-town rates for water and sewer. Now, the new property owners will be paying lower, in-town rates for water and sewer, but they will also be paying town property taxes, in addition to the county and school district property taxes they were paying before annexation.

The new owners are working with DelDOT on how the existing entrances and exits to the site from Glenwood Avenue will be designated, such as if a right turn only will be permitted from an exit.

No additional parking spaces are needed, DeBenedictis said.