New business park breaks ground in Smyrna
SMYRNA — Back in 2003, the 220 acres where KRM Development Corp. would eventually plan its Duck Creek Business Campus looked like something out of “Field of Dreams.” It was all farmland, and was later leased out to soybean and corn farmers while the developer started its plans from the ground up.
“We were working on a building in Chestertown, Md., at the time, and Ron Athey [then-president of KRM Development] heard that we just had to check out Smyrna,” recalled Richard Goodall, CEO of the KRM Development and The Dixon Group. “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.”
Seventeen years later, after knocking on doors to buy more land for access to U.S. Route 13 and securing annexation and permitting through the town, KRM Development is ready to build its first warehouse among what could be many. The company broke ground Thursday morning, signaling a new chapter in Kent County’s economic rejuvenation.
The first building will be a 70,000-square-foot speculative building, and plans are to start construction Nov. 11. This first building, built in approximately six months, will be warehouse-flex to best fit with what clients will need.
Once it’s built, the rest of the 140,000 square-foot building will follow. Based on land configuration, Goodall said it could ultimately be finished with a footprint of 1 million to 1.5 million square feet. In total, Duck Creek Business Campus is estimated to draw up to 4,000 jobs and $477 million in economic development to Delaware’s smallest county.
KRM Development, the real estate arm of the Dixon Group of Chestertown, has built its name with two business parks in Maryland that range in leases from 60,000 to 100,000 square feet. Duck Creek is among the group’s first large-scale investments in Delaware.
In the early stages of the planning process, KRM Development first proposed a mixed-use development with residential and commercial components. But Goodall said eventually the company decided to come back to its roots as a business park developer, pointing specifically to the 85-acre Chesapeake Bay Business Park in Stevensville, Md.
“We develop top-end facilities where people want to be. If any of you have a chance to drive through what we have in Stevensville, those buildings [range between] 5 and 25 years old and they look better now than when we built them,” he said.
In the past, KRM Development officials said that the larger the company is, the more attractive the Mid-Atlantic region is, which makes Kent County an ideal location for manufacturers and distributors alike.
Kate Gray, KRM Development president and Goodall’s daughter, said Duck Creek has already garnered some buzz, giving more credence to the belief that if you build it, they will come.
“We’ve already had some conversations with site selectors and the county office to find possible tenants, as well as direct marketing to realtors in the sectors, but the hope is push it out further once it’s partially occupied,” Gray said.
To put it more simply, “you can’t market out of an empty basket,” Goodall said.
KRM Development will be using its construction arm, KRM Construction, to build the first phase of the Duck Creek Business Park. Other contractors include Precision Concrete, Bob Lawson Electrical Services, Ammon Heisler Sachs for all the architectural design and Becker Morgan for site design and engineering. In all, construction will bring 50 jobs through subcontractors and another three to 10 in-house workers with the KRM team.
By Katie Tabeling
Editor’s note: this article has been updated with information about Ammon Heisler Sachs.