Bridgeville works on a new vision

By Lynn R. Parks

Residents of Bridgeville are invited to help the town come up with a new vision. A workshop will be held later this month at the Bridgeville Public Library, during which citizens will be invited to discuss how they see their town and what they would like it to be like in the future.

The discussion will be led by Ben Muldrow of Arnette Muldrow & Associates, a planning and economic development firm based in South Carolina. Muldrow recently conducted similar processes for Georgetown and Seaford, processes that included the writing of new town mottos: for the county seat, "Georgetown, Delaware – Well-Rounded," and for Seaford, "The Perfect Place to Start."

Muldrow also selected colors and fonts for signs, flags, brochures and websites to promote the towns' downtown areas. Having a "town palette" gives the community a uniform look and feel, he said in announcing Georgetown's vision.

Following three days spent in Bridgeville, Muldrow will present his findings to the public. His firm has been hired by the town through a USDA grant administered by the Delaware Economic Development Office. The grant will pay $16,250 of the $20,250 cost. The town will pay the remaining $4.000.

Last fall, the Bridgeville Town Commission adopted "A Master Plan for Bridgeville and Greenwood," the result of a process coordinated by the University of Delaware's Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative. The plan was prompted by worries about job loss and isolation of newer residents, as well as by the towns' concerns that new environmental standards for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed will create financial burdens for residents.

One "overarching guiding principle" of the master plan is the preservation of "community character and the natural, historic and cultural assets that make the towns special." To help with that, the plan recommends that the towns "seek available resources for Main Street-type development and branding."

The branding process is being spearheaded by the town's Economic Development Committee, whose mission is to "create a community where people want to live, work and visit." Toward that end, it will employ "an inclusive collaborative effort to increase economic, social and educational opportunities, to provide community support services and to offer an appealing environment."

Ruth Skala, who lives in Heritage Shores, is chairwoman of the Economic Development Committee. She is excited about the prospect of helping Bridgeville to grow.

With the construction of Heritage Shores, which when complete will have 1,800 homes, and with beach traffic that passes through town, Bridgeville has "opportunities for growth in all areas of economic development: commercial, light manufacturing and housing," she said.

Skala said that the members of her committee would like to see all of the stores along Market Street occupied, offering products as well as services. "It would be nice to have a florist, a coffee shop, a pet boutique, possibly a spa, a restaurant, a center for the arts and a B&B," she added. "The goal would be to build on the charming nature of downtown with more emphasis on tourism, including the Bridgeville Museum and events like Apple-Scrapple and Christmas in Bridgeville."

There is also potential for growth along U.S. routes 13 and 404, Skala added. "Those large commercial areas offer opportunities for a food store, hotel, movie theater, restaurant, bank, health club, etc.," she said. She would also like to see more housing for people of all ages – Heritage Shores is for people who are 55 and older – as well as an assisted living and nursing home facility.

"The long-term goal is to have a community where the youth chose to stay because there are jobs and activities and the seniors have their needs met," Skala said.

In addition to the workshop, Muldrow will conduct work sessions with citizens throughout the three days that he will be in town. Based on all of those conversations, as well as on just walking around town, he will identify Bridgeville's assets and will come up with design recommendations, suggestions for preservation projects and ways to promote the town.

In the end, he said, citizens will have "an ongoing, flexible plan that they can use to guide the continued revitalization of their town and stimulate economic growth." The plan will include diagrams, architectural renderings, photos and marketing material.

The kickoff workshop will be Thursday, June 30, starting at 6 p.m. at the Bridgeville Public Library, 600 S. Cannon St.

Muldrow will reveal his findings two days later, on July 2. That meeting will also start at 6 p.m. and will be held at the library.

For more information, contact Skala at rlskala@comcast.net.

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