[caption id="attachment_213534" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Harrington hopes to recapture its rail road history with a potential industrial site with rail access. The Dover/Kent MPO is finishing a freight study that may open the door to development | PHOTO COURTESY OF BENJAMIN WAGNER/UNSPLASHED[/caption]
HARRINGTON — A master plan and freight train study outlining the next steps to develop a Harrington industrial park and its infrastructure is in the final stages, proposing a new future for the former railroad town.The study will examine the possibility of bringing a multimodal freight terminal servicing rail and truck freight operations to Kent County, eyeing mostly undeveloped 131 acres on the southern edge of the city with 3,800 feet of rail running right in its center. The Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), a federally-designated agency that coordinates transportation planning in Kent County, is leading the study and conducting a master plan developing that land as a terminal and industrial park.“The big thing is that the Harrington Industrial Park will not be developed in one fell swoop,” Dover/Kent MPO Principal Planner James Galvin told the Delaware Business Times. “It’s a sequence of events that focus on site improvement that will lead to development.”For years, Harrington officials have been hoping that the 131 acres off U.S. Route 13 and tucked behind the Pepsico bottling plant would be redeveloped into a multi-tenant facility that would hire scores of employees and bring a windfall of economic impact to the city.“We’re very close to the final plan, and we’re starting to really look into infrastructure costs to open it on a bigger scale,” Harrington City Manager Daniel Tartt said. “The opportunity is there, and we’re excited to see what works in that space.”The master plan aspect of the study will take a look at best configurations of the Harrington Industrial Park, but will keep in mind business demand for flexible lot sizes. City officials project that complete build out could bring between 500 and 900 jobs.The land is split into three parcels with three owners: the city, O.A. Newton Company President and CEO Rob Rider and James Latham. O.A. Newton has a facility there and Latham has a lumber supply company, but much of the land is still vacant with limited infrastructure.
[caption id="attachment_213536" align="alignleft" width="300"] Behind the Pepsico Bottling plant off Route 13, the city and two private property owners hope an industrial park will be developed and bring about 500 to 900 jobs to the city. | PHOTO COURTESY OF GOOGLE MAPS[/caption]
The study officially started in summer of 2019, with the funding split between the Dover/Kent MPO and Rider and Latham, who paid $6,000 each. In addition, both Rider and Latham also paid for a survey of their property that included topography and wetlands.“This project has always been around on the back burner. We’ve decided to bring it to the front, and Mr. Rider and Mr. Latham have indicated that they're open for several prospects,” Harrington City Planner Karen Brittingham said. “Housing is a popular option on open land these days, and it’s great, but you need to have jobs and we need to incentivize that.”In its heyday, Harrington was the hub of central Delaware commerce and agriculture as a key stop for the Delaware Railroad. The railroad drove population and industrial growth, with canning factories arriving in the 1900s to process farm products and later clothing manufacturers. As time wore on and road infrastructure improved, some of that industry moved out of town but the Delmarva Central Railroad is still a critical mode of transportation for heavier goods.The Delmarva Central Railroad, managed by Carload Express, operates 188 miles of rail line in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia with lines running to just south of Wilmington and as far south as Hallwood, Va. The DCR interchanges with Norfolk Southern in Clayton and New Castle, and the Maryland & Delaware Railroad Company in Townsend, Seaford and Frankford.The site has water, sewer and septic, electric and some natural gas, but Brittingham noted that infrastructure may need to be expanded to get the site ready. Additional infrastructure like a transload freight terminal and a truck weigh station would also tap into its full potential, Brittingham said.“We have a lot of sectors a lot of people don’t even realize we have, like farmers that work with poultry and frozen food companies. The rail would open up so many opportunities for even the small businesses,” she added.A draft of the freight study has been shared with the Dover/Kent MPO, Harrington officials and a small group of stakeholders involved in advising the study for further discussion. Presentation of the draft study to the MPO’s advisory committees is tentatively scheduled in August.While Kent County and Harrington officials await the final report, Kent Economic Partnership Executive Director Linda Parkowski said this project would be ideal to market to distribution and logistic companies looking to move bulk products with ease.“We haven’t started marketing this yet, but I do think it has the ability to become the premiere industrial park in central Delaware. No industrial park in Delaware has rail access, and it’s a wonderful asset because it opens so many uses with it,” Parkowski said. “It’s going to be a game-changer with the right commitment to invest in it.”