SALISBURY – A $2.5 million grant award is expected to help with the demolition and revitalization of the old Campbell Soup factory on West Road.
On Wednesday, the Wicomico County Council voted unanimously to accept a $2.5 million Neighborhood Revitalization grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, which will be allocated to Salisbury-based Davis Strategic Development for the demolition and revitalization of 510 West Road.
“What we want to do is stabilize the property and produce income …,” said Davis Strategic Development owner Bret Davis. “This $2.5 million is, candidly, a drop in the bucket but we can get the worst parts of the factory removed and improve the façade.”
While three companies currently utilize space within the old factory, Davis told officials this week much of the 300,000-square-foot building has fallen into disrepair since Campbell Soup closed the plant in the early 1990s.
With the help of grant funding, Davis said the first phase of improvements would include the demolition of the brick wall abutting West Road, as well as the areas directly behind it. There are also plans to address parking and stabilize the roof.
“It will be quite a process, but it is to stabilize and remediate the property …,” he said. “This is something we would like to develop into a much larger project in the long run.”
Davis said his company had a letter of intent to take a portion of the factory and is in negotiations to lease out a part of the factory. He said there have also been talks of a mixed-use project.
“Speaking with the community and the state of Maryland, one of the thoughts is possibly a multi-family, mixed-use conversion …,” he said. “The property is 16 acres. We don’t get that often.”
Councilman Joe Holloway asked if there were any environmental issues at the site. Davis noted that a study had identified minor oil runoff, but that he anticipated more issues as the project begins.
“Right now, $250,000 of the budget is going toward remediation,” he said.
Councilman Josh Hastings questioned the company’s use of state grant funding.
“You are a private company,” he said. “Could you do this without public taxpayer dollars?”
Davis argued it was not financially feasible to take on such a large project without the grant funding.
“There would have to be state funding,” he said. “All of this makes no [financial] sense.”
When asked if the project had to meet certain requirements as part of the grant award, Davis said the funding was available for several uses.
“It’s an open-ended grant, so it’s allowed to go to a wide variety of things …,” he explained. “It’s allowed for acquisition, demo, new construction, and environmental and blight removal. Talking to the state, it seemed like this checked every box they could hope for.”
After further discussion, the council voted unanimously to accept the grant award.