[caption id="attachment_214659" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Dover officials are looking to redesign Garrison Oak to attract larger companies. | PHOTO BY ERIC CROSSAN[/caption]
DOVER — More than 20 years after Dover officials dreamed of a massive technology park in the heart of the state, they are now looking to redesign Garrison Oak Business and Technology Park to land even bigger businesses.Dover city officials are reportedly working with engineering firms to move the stormwater drainage ditches that run through the 390-acre site that naturally divide up the land into 10-acre lots. The small lot size is an active deterrent when Kent Economic Partnership (KEP) starts marketing Garrison Oak to distribution or manufacturing companies.“The majority of the requests we get now are for 20-, 35-, 40-acre parcels for large manufacturers or logistics and distribution centers,” KEP Executive Director Linda Parkowski told the Kent County Levy Court on Nov. 9. “We’ve had many inquiries — probably 30 really good ones — into this park, and they can’t combine the lots because of the drainage ditches.”The land off White Oak Road used to be farmed by the Garrison family, before it was bought by Dover officials in 1999 with $2 million in state funding. At the time, city officials were courting a computer chip manufacturer, and the prospect ultimately fell through. Garrison Oak’s biggest victory was landing Uzin Utz,a German flooring company, in 2015 with the help of $419,000 in state grants.A solar plant and a power plant have also opened at the park, but 11 vacant lots are still on the market, and it remains as one of the few shovel-ready industrial parks in Kent County.The biggest issue is that drainage ditches lie on the eastern end of the properties, crossing between parcels and making it difficult to market, Parkowski said. Those ditches were intentionally placed because at the time, 10 acres was thought to be enough for a small corporate campus or light manufacturing use.“We just had a really good prospect, the competitor to Sakrete [concrete manufacturer] and they couldn’t wait for the redesign to happen, and they were going to purchase two or four lots,” she said.Total redesign will cost $12,000, and the Kent County Levy Court agreed to pay $6,000 out of its Strategic Development Fund. That county program is targeted for businesses needing working capital, renovation and construction of roads and related infrastructure, equipment, relocation and more.Parkowski also believes that utilities will also have to be moved as well. But if the Garrison Oak redesign is complete by January, she intends to apply for Site Readiness Funds. Earlier this year, Gov. John Carney signed into law a $10 million fund to get land ready for construction in six months to a year.Language on the regulations for the Site Readiness Fund program should be out in January, Parkowski added.Even if Garrison Oak is redesigned, Kent County and Dover officials will still have to contend with the lack of direct access to Route 1 and other road improvements. Trucks driving to and from Garrison Oak must use local roads that were not designed for heavy truck traffic to access the regional highways.Late this summer, the Dover/Kent Metropolitan Planning Organizationunveiled recommendations, chief among them constructing a new roadfrom Garrison Oak, running parallel to Route 1 and connecting to the North Little Creek interchange. That project would cost $4.7 million.
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