Investor proposes $30M+ resort near DE Turf
FREDERICA — Tapping into DE Turf Sports Complex’s success, real estate investor Steve Martin is planning a $30 million or more RV and luxury camping resort to be open by spring 2021, pending approval from state and county officials.
By January 2021, Martin hopes to break ground on a 22 acre campsite and strip mall on Old Cemetery Road and off Route 1. The campground would have 60 RV sites and 38 cabins for “glamorous camping” with hotel-like accommodations and amenities. A pool, a playground and an indoor recreation center surrounding the campground, according to plans submitted to the state.
“When you look at other resorts like Crystal Springs [Wildness Resort] in New Jersey, they really took off because people want to get out and relax in the woods but they want to do it in some comfort,” Martin told the Delaware Business Times. “These aren’t log cabins although they will look like it. When you walk in, it will be like walking into an upscale Marriott.”
The strip mall right across the campground has 29,290 square feet planned for retail, but also room for up to five restaurants and a 105 room hotel. Michael Harrington Jr. of Harrington Realty in Dover has been in talks with fast food restaurants like Bojangles, Wendy’s and convenience stores like Royal Farms and Wawa.
A $8.5 million water park is also tentatively planned for the third phase of development, although Martin said there is no timeline on when that would be. Once built out, the project could bring up to 300 full-time jobs, not including seasonal positions or jobs created to service the resort.
This project is a first of its kind for Martin, who mainly focuses on commercial and residential real estate. In the past three years he has been working to get the project through the state and county planning process, coinciding with the rising usage of the $24 million DE Turf complex.
In its first year, the 12 field facility attracted 125,650 visitors and was projected to bring in $18 million in the next decade to the state’s economy.
After a three-month hiatus due to COVID-19, DE Turf resumed sports tournaments on June 8 under its new executive director, Angie Eliason. Undaunted by the pandemic, Martin said he is confident to continue to bet big on the complex’s future success.
“It’s been a tremendous success, and I believe it will continue to be once we get past this,” Martin said. “One thing we’ve heard over time is that there’s not enough food or lodging to support these teams and their families. More often, they stay in Rehoboth and we all know how maddening traffic can be on Route 1.”
The resort could also serve as an alternative lodging option for other big draws in Kent County, like NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway with grandstands with 54,000 seats and Firefly Music Festival that drew 50,000 people in 2019.
“You won’t have to stay at Dover Downs race track, you could come here and relax and shop if needed,” Martin said.
Kent Economic Partnership Executive Director Linda Parkowski touted the project as building off the strong foundation that DE Turf built for the county’s continued success.
“Any developments which are complementary to DE Turf are beneficial to the area, as the participants traveling [there] are always looking for amenities to enhance their experience,” Parkowski said in an email. “DE Turf was designed to be an economic driver [and that] has proven true.”
The Delaware Department of Transportation is currently evaluating the proposed resort with respect to how it fits with the Master Plan and the Corridor Capacity Preservation Program. No final decisions have been made at this time, DelDOT spokesman C.R. McLeod said.
The proposal will be heard by the Kent County Regional Planning Commission on Oct. 1.
By Katie Tabeling
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