Seaford's downtown will transform like a butterfly

By Annette C. Silva

"Seaford has a lot of sweat equity-what we need is access to money and someone with vision," says Sally Stewart of Stewart's Awards & Imprints.
Tommy Cooper (Cooper Realty) says, "If downtown does it right, people will come; just look at St. Michael's and Lewes-15 years ago Lewes was a ghost town."
Mayor Dan Short believes that once a community visualizes a plan and broadcasts it, energy is created: "I'm optimistic-we're starting to create what I call the ‘Wow' effect.
Karen Pedemonte (co-owner of Bon Appetit) says "Seaford had to create a reason for people to come here-and now they're doing it."
Patricia French (co-owner of Caffe Sarajevo) says, "Our hope is that the streets will fill with lots of new shops after the improvements are in place."
This small sampling of four business people and a mayor indicates that growth is afoot in this western Sussex town alongside the Nanticoke River.
One sees the exterior changes during drive-by errand doings. Now in its awkward stage, the city nonetheless is metamorphosing into a butterfly.
According to Short, interior changes are also stirring; he says it's an attitude of optimism. "We have a lot of enthusiasm, both at City Hall and within the community, and we all want to see Seaford become the city it can be."
Some of the above people offered comments and specifics about the town's development.
Mayor Dan Short:
-Riverwalk, Phase III, is about to begin. "We're extending the Riverwalk all the way to Cannon Street; we'll conserve the shoreline along the westerly direction and build a boardwalk surrounded by landscaping." Strollers will be able to walk through town toward Front Street, head down along the river and come full circle.
-A Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee was formed, "To address the big picture and outline marketing, fundraising and design strategies. We're working on streamlining the process for potential new business owners by providing a listing of necessary steps, a timeline and the costs. We can help them along the way."
-He spoke of a planning session with Council to discuss a new Seaford municipal building to be located in the lot next to the old Peninsula Oil building on the corner of High and Front Streets.
"We hope to contract with an architect for some designs and discuss sources of possible funding."
-Meetings will continue with community leaders and financial institutions for the purpose of (and support for) forming a corporate investment group to support Seaford revitalization projects.

-No word yet on the future of the empty PNC Bank Building. "They don't respond to questions; I've written them a letter and no-one has answered," said Short. "It would be good to have a bank downtown, especially with our renovations; I'm trying to get them to put an ATM downtown."
-The Conaway property along Water Street is still for sale. The City reinforced the path down to the river on North St. Also, the riverfront corner lot at Water and Market Streets (the Miller property) is for sale.
Shannon Willey, director of Main Street and Economic Development:
-"A marketing package is being prepared to send out as soon as the downtown renovations near completion." The package, according to Willey, will include specific information about Seaford reinvestment tax incentives, a downtown directory listing current businesses, churches, schools, physicians, historical information and Seaford events such as the August River Float-in. The package will include a pamphlet outlining Seaford's Historic Enterprise Zone incentives ( a la "Reasons to bring your business here"), the city's tax grant program, a new zoning plan and a listing of downtown marketable opportunities. The package will be mailed to businesses in surrounding Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as to chambers of commerce.
-Another lot has been sold at the Industrial Park-details later.
Tommy Cooper:
-Regarding his negotiations with a Baltimore developer for a shopping complex on US 13 to include a major grocery chain, movie theaters, restaurants and 30,000 feet for speciality shops: "I had a meeting on February 9 with the grocery store chain," said Cooper. "The meeting went well. If the grocery store decides to come here, then the Regal Theater complex (6 salas) will most likely come too." The shops, Cooper said, would be in keeping with the quality of the shopping area. "We hope to be able to attract a Deli, a bakery and other quality businesses."
-His views regarding the downtown area: "Once the groundwork is laid [infrastructure], which they are doing, the next most important thing they need to do is market the downtown as a niche for specialty shops. They need to learn what other successfully renovated towns have done. If you visit any rejuvenated town, you'll see that it's not rocket science. You create a nice atmosphere where people enjoy walking, shopping for unique items and stopping to eat."
Sally Stewart (Organization Chair of the Main Street Program):
-"We're always looking for developers showing an interest in Seaford," said Stewart.
-"There is huge potential here. The city is working on streamlining the process for businesses interested in locating downtown, but we all have to do our part because downtown is an important economic indicator of the whole town."
-"Lots of ideas have been batted around for the Post Office Building (The P.O. is relocating later in the year)," said Stewart. Both the Seaford Museum and the Chamber of Commerce have shown interest. "Someone with money could use it as a restaurant with a Post Office motif or it could become an artist and artisan's cooperative. There are lots of possibilities for someone with imagination and money."
-"A viable and vibrant downtown is the key to attracting potential investors."
Patricia French:
-"First of all, we're thrilled that the Guide Building is gone. The City and Kaye Construction did a great job. We can now see out our windows and have light coming in." Also, we (she and her husband Toby French are co-owners of Caffe Sarajevo) are encouraged by all that is going on." She said they have space for two more businesses in their building besides the Caffe, Cranberrry Hill and Night Owl bookstore. "We'd like to see a card shop or a gourmet food shop come here."
-"A new Juice Bar is coming downtown-that's a good sign, and I think other small businesses will soon follow.
-"We hope that people will notice the improvements that are going on all over Seaford. The City has helped us enormously."