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Milford movie theater owner adds new project

Katie Tabeling

Preliminary plans show a show a one-story, 4,800-square-foot building divided into two businesses. | PHOTO COURTESY OF MILFORD

MILFORD — Local businessman Arthur Helmick, owner of Milford movie theater, continues to bet on Milford, as he has bought land along U.S. Route 113 and plans for two fast-food restaurants.

The former Wendy’s at 997 N. Dupont Blvd. was sold to Helmick for $918,000 last fall, but this week the Milford Planning Commission approved plans to redevelop the site. Instead of one restaurant, the site will include one drive-in restaurant and one that offers take-out or sit-down options.

Preliminary plans filed by Hillcrest Associates, the architecture firm on the project, show a one-story, 4,800-square-foot building divided into two businesses. The drive-in will use much of the existing traffic patterns at the closed Wendy’s, with a one-way lane.

While there is no franchise named yet, Hillcrest Associates Vice President Tom Schierer said it was a safe assumption that each restaurant would hire eight employees for the largest shift.

The former Wendy’s, which closed in 2018, is in a prime location, as it sits right at the entrance of the city. Milford has two major highways running through it — Route 1 that heads to Rehoboth Beach and U.S. Route 113 that leads to Ocean City, Md.

The property is also right next door to Helmick’s other Milford investment: the Movies at Milford 9. Helmick first bought the former Walmart (and later Sitel) in 2018 with the assistance of the ONIX Group, a real estate development firm. Renovations were first projected at $12 million, according to the News Journal.

With large recliner seats and cutting-edge laser projectors, Movies at Milford 9 opened in January 2021, behind schedule because of COVID-19 related delays. The nine-screen theater has 840 seats.

Helmick also opened the Westown Movies in Middletown in 2013 and later bought and transformed the former Newark Cinema Center for $3 million.

Back in 2020, Helmick told the Delaware Business Times he believed Milford was a market missing a movie theater since residents either had to drive to Dover or Lewes to get the theater experience.

“Milford is exactly like Middletown was 10 years ago. The growth is there, especially with Bayhealth there,” Helmick said in June 2020. “There’s a middle market that’s not being addressed unless you go to Maryland and with beach traffic it’s always hard to get anywhere south.”

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