The Mill to anchor major Seaford redevelopment
SEAFORD – In front of boarded up storefronts and before a throng of Seaford residents and city officials who have waited decades for the Nylon Capital Shopping Center to be revitalized, developer and The Mill founder Robert Herrerra outlined his $60 million investment for a new future for the shopping center.
With support and funds from the state and city, Herrerra plans to redevelop the neglected 280,000-square-foot shopping center over the next four years. Those plans include constructing at least 15,000 square feet of space to bring The Mill, a co-working and incubation space, to Sussex County for the first time. Delaware Technical Community College is committed to taking 15,000 square feet of the site as well.
“You have to embrace the climate where you are, and I can see myself positioning The Mill here not just to rent office space, which it will have, but to become a place where even if your office is somewhere else you want come and be part of the community,” Herrerra told the Delaware Business Times. “And in Seaford, that’s how you double down in the community, by being a part of it.”
For now, Herrerra envisions transforming the Nylon Capital Shopping Center into a campus with a health care component as well as inviting other higher education partners and retail options as well. He told the press that he has had many conversations with potential health care partners, but was not ready to make a formal announcement.
In all, the 21-acre site, anchored by a Rite Aid and a Dollar Tree, will be redeveloped to 250,000 square feet of floor space. To date, it’s estimated that 15% of the Nylon Capital Shopping Center is occupied, with few retail tenants.
To many like Seaford Mayor David Genshaw and Rep. Danny Short (R-Seaford), the project represents a new day in the once-bustling DuPont company town. When DuPont built an $8 million factory that brought 850 workers to manufacture nylons in the 1930s, the city grew with the company – and the shopping center was once a bustling heart of retail shopping for southern Delmarva.
“When I was a senior in high school, this place, on a day like today right before Christmas, would have been packed,” Genshaw said during a press conference. “But as retail moved out to the highway, from the west side to the east side, that radically changed Seaford … Countless people have worked on this project. Today is an incredible day.”
The Cordish Companies bought the shopping center in the 1970s when it was still bustling, but that gradually faded as DuPont wound down its business in Seaford and other towns and cities began to offer retail options. Roughly 22,000 cars pass the Nylon Capital Shopping Center on Route 20 per day, according to marketing materials from the Cordish Companies.
While Herrerra, and his partners at Wilmington-based 9th Street Development Company, will be taking bulk of the work for redeveloping the site, he noted that this project would not have gotten off the ground without the support of city, county and state officials.
Through a subsidiary LLC, Herrerra’s company bought the shopping center for $5.4 million on Dec. 9 – Seaford granted $3.1 million and the General Assembly had $2 million set aside in the Fiscal Year 2023 appropriations for an incubator project.
“I had looked at this site for years, but I would have to say the governor personally talked me into it over the course of the last two years,” Herrerra said. “There had been discussions of scaling this to other counties, and given the community importance to this site, this just made sense.”
Herrerra expects that much of the site will have to be demolished and rebuilt, although some buildings would be saved for redevelopment. His firm has started a property assessment now to assess whether some leaky roofs can be repaired or if it was more cost-effective to build a 21st century building.
Carney, who first paid attention to Seaford when he was campaigning for governor, said he always considered the Nylon Capital Shopping center the heart of the town, as well as an economic hub for western Sussex County and part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
“Rob has managed to turn another DuPont asset, the Nemours building [in downtown Wilmington] into incubator space and he was making it work – and that can be hard to make work. Watching his success and seeing how he understands the new economy, I really encouraged him to make this work,” the governor told DBT.
“This represents not just the revitalization of this center but the future of western Sussex,” Carney added. “This has been on my radar since I got in office, because we need to promote prosperity for all areas of our state. More than anything, what I want for this site is employment for the residents.”