DOVER — Looking to energize a long-dormant Kent County economic prospect, Delaware’s congressional delegation has secured $5 million in federal funding to jolt Garrison Oak Business and Technology Park. The […]
[caption id="attachment_229823" align="alignnone" width="1024"] For years, Garrison Oak Technology and Business Park has been marketed out of the Dover city government offices. Now, the Commercial Moving Experience has been hired as a broker to land tenants. | DBT PHOTO BY KATIE TABELING[/caption]
DOVER — Interest in Garrison Oak Business and Technology Park is heating up, and it may all be traced to a major strategy change: hiring an outside commercial broker.In September, Dover city officials reportedly contracted with The Commercial Moving Experienceto shine a brighter light on the 390-acre industrial park. Garrison Oak was bought by the city of Dover in 1999 with $2 million from state funding, and since then, two companies, a power plant and a solar farm have been built there.Dover City Manager Dave Hugg said the city is still working on prospects for at least six lots at Garrison Oak, and city planning officials have received at least 10 calls of interest in the past seven months.“I do think the new broker is helping us get that exposure. In the past, that marketing was kept in-house, and when we did get inquiries it wasn’t top-of-the-line,” Hugg told the Delaware Business Times. “Some of the interest itself is also driven by the frenzy in action of small, flex manufacturing and warehouse space.”The Commercial Moving Experience was formed two years ago through the Moving Experience, a Dover-based residential realtor and property management firm led by Todd Stonesifer. The boutique commercial real estate firm focuses primarily in Kent County, but does work with some listings in New Castle and Sussex, and plan to grow that base in the near future.Father and son duo Chuck and Jeff Spiegelman joined the boutique firm soon after its formation. Chuck Spiegelman is a realtor with 15 years of experience in sales and leases for warehouses, retail, offices and farms. Jeff has been in the business for six years, and also serves as the representative for the 11th District of Delaware. “We’ve had a couple of clients interested in Garrison Oak over time, maybe a year or more and when I was working for a different firm,” Commercial Moving Experience Partner Chuck Spiegelman told the Delaware Business Times. “But it didn’t work out because their intended use didn’t fit with the zoning code.”Changing the zoneThose past prospects Spiegelman had included contracting companies, recycling companies and self-storage units. But under the zoning created specifically for Garrison Oak - Industrial Park Manufacturing Zone Business and Technology Center (IMP2), focused specifically on manufacturing of biotechnology, research and design, testing and labs and offices for financial services and insurance or agricultural use.There’s been changes to the IMP2 zone — and what’s allowed in Garrison Oak, the only tract of land with that designation — in the years since. Back in 2009, the ordinance was amended to allow electricity generation. In 2019, the City Council amended the zone again to allow warehouse, distribution, logistics, data management and professional services, under the recommendation from the Kent Economic Partnership.But after signing with The Commercial Moving Experience, Dover officials approved another zoning change in January. Based on recommendations from the realtor, IMP2 now includes packaging, truck terminals, vocational education facilities, craft distilleries and microbreweries. Some accessory retail and contractor yards are also permitted.While craft brewing, indoor recreation and amusement, and a retail component were suggested by some council members, the Commercial Moving Experience recommended much of the rest. Other recommendations for self-storage and concrete recycling were not included in the zoning amendment.“Much of our recommendations came from market research. Why weren’t these lots selling? They’re at a marketable price and a good location,” Chuck Spiegelman said. “And when we started to research it, we started to realize it’s more restrictive than other parts of a similar layout and feel to Garrison. Even if not all our recommendations were accepted, we’re still going to sell all the lots.”Prospects and the marketChuck Spiegelman did confirm that the Commercial Moving Experience is working actively on several prospects. Most are manufacturing firms or warehouse companies. But the uncertainty in the market is still causing some companies to be careful, particularly as interest rates have risen over the last year. However, Spiegelman remains bullish on the future.“Some people are cautious. And some people have excess amounts of cash that they need to put somewhere and they look at this Garrison Oak as a real opportunity,” he said. “It’s priced right, and you’re not going to find that with all the infrastructure in place. These lots are shovel-ready and that’s hard to match.”Kent Economic PartnershipExecutive Director Linda Parkowski shared the same outlook for the future of Garrison Oak.“Having a real-estate broker and the high demand for industrial-zoned shovel-ready sites has been a game-changer for Garrison Oak ,” Parkowski said. “If all of the prospects come to fruition, they will create good paying jobs for people in Central Delaware.”Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that the Dover City Council included indoor recreation and amusement to the IMP2 zone.