[caption id="attachment_220749" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The new Millville Square shopping center aims to provide more retail options for the inland Millville area. | PHOTO COURTESY OF TOWN OF MILLVILLE[/caption]
MILLVILLE – Although Millville has an increasing number of year-round businesses to accommodate the growing 12-month community, whether you’re just visiting for the week or living here all summer, making the drive over to Bethany Beach can be a drag. The recently approved Millville Square shopping center is the latest piece of the town’s plan to reduce the number of cars on the road while increasing the number of things to do in town.When Brad Absher started kicking around the idea of developing the Millville Square shopping center along Route 26 a few years ago, he understood that the challenges were more than just getting the funding and construction together. With the town’s encouragement, he wanted to establish something that provided experiences beyond retail. The town council approved the plan on Jan. 11.Right from conception, the project fit within the town’s comprehensive plan to have commercial development in the area, but commercial could have meant practically anything. Absher wants to focus on the kind of individuality that will appeal to the people who live and vacation in Millville.“One thing I love about this area is there’s a lot of support for local businesses,” he said. “We still have a small town feel in this area and I want to keep it that way.”Absher wasn’t ready to talk about the specific businesses he hopes to attract, but the emphasis will be more on individually owned retail establishments rather than chains.The approved development will have 13 retail slots on 2.5 acres of land. Absher’s design includes a lot of open space though, where he plans to have designated eating areas. The idea is that in addition to stationary retail, there will be parking spaces allocated for food trucks. Since it is practically across the street from the Millville Boardwalk, the hope is to provide incentive, or at least the opportunity, for residents to spend more time enjoying their nights out. The Millville Boardwalk is a retail development that includes an ice cream shop and mini-golf as well as an arcade and other games and distractions. “Everybody is worried about growth,” Millville Mayor Ron Belinko said. “But we’re also all part of the growth the area has been experiencing.”Belinko cited the Boardwalk as the kind of alternative that appeals to families who might not be up to driving into Bethany Beach for entertainment every night. It isn’t any secret that parking in Bethany Beach can be a nightmare during the summer. Belinko said that ensuring there is ample parking has been one critical part of the plan. Another is eliminating the need for it altogether. Both Belinko and Absher noted that there isn’t a lot of commercial development west of U.S. Route 113, especially proportional to the amount of residential growth that has taken hold in the region over the last few years. The town has been working on more connective roads that allow the residents of the various homeowners associations to move more freely within the town to take some more pressure off of Route 26. There’s a stronger emphasis on walkable and bikeable solutions that ostensibly would allow people to get around town more directly and efficiently. For him, the project represents both an admission that growth will keep happening and proof that it can be accommodated with the right amount of planning. Absher put the expected opening date in 2023.“It’s going to be a big build,” he said.While he was hopeful it could be done sooner, he said it makes more sense to build COVID and supply chain issues into his planning to avoid both costly delays and local disappointment. “We just want to err on the side of caution,” he said.
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