Fenwick Developer Demolishes Dairy Queen Building

Fenwick Developer Demolishes Dairy Queen Building
Crews are pictured in May demolishing the former Dairy Queen property. A new Surf Bagel will open on the site next year. Photo Courtesy of Balsamo Real Estate

FENWICK ISLAND – Demolition of the former Dairy Queen building began last week as plans move forward to bring a Surf Bagel to Fenwick Island.

Last week, demolition crews razed the former Dairy Queen building, located at 1007 Coastal Highway. Joe Balsamo of Balsamo Real Estate LLC, owner of the Dairy Queen property, said plans are underway to bring a Surf Bagel to a new building on the site.

“We’re almost done with the architectural plans,” he said in an interview last Wednesday. “As soon as we get a building permit, we will begin work on the building.”

Balsamo noted that efforts to redevelop the Dairy Queen property have stalled in recent years as the town worked on new parking regulations for commercial properties. Because of the ordinance, the company will change the footprint of its new building, which will be one story instead of two.

“Now we’re just waiting on DelDOT approvals,” he said. “Once that’s done, we can get a building permit.”

Balsamo said the plan is to open the new bagel shop next year, once construction concludes.

“It’s going to be a great addition to Fenwick Island …,” he said. “We’re really looking forward to it.”

The demolition of the former Dairy Queen comes less than a month after the town council agreed to send a letter to Balsamo Real Estate, seeking assurances that the Dairy Queen building was structurally sound. Officials said concerns had been raised about the safety of the site and questioned if the property should be declared a nuisance.

“We understand from statements made by you that you are negotiating an agreement with SoDel [Concepts] to build a Surf Bagel,” the letter to the real estate company reads. “If that is the case, we would be happy to work with you to secure an immediate permit for demolition so that your plans can move forward expeditiously toward the filing of a building permit. In the event you are not intending to file for a building permit, the Town would like confirmation from you, attested by a licensed engineer, that the building is safe and sanitary.”

In a statement issued last Tuesday, the town recognized the real estate company for proceeding with its demolition plans.

“The Town is very pleased and thankful that Balsamo Real Estate decided to move forward with the demolition of the old DQ property,” the statement reads. “We were very concerned that the property was a health hazard and Balsamo Real Estate immediately responded to our inquiry by requesting a demolition permit. We thank them for their proactive response and hope that the plans they have discussed in bringing a Surf Bagel to Fenwick becomes a reality.”

In January 2022, Balsamo Real Estate submitted a building permit for interior demolition and roof replacement at the former Dairy Queen, though officials say that work was abandoned after a partial roof collapse. And late last summer, the company submitted to the town a development plan, which highlighted a 1,500-square-foot addition and the creation of new restaurant space.

When town staff advised the company they would not consider the development plan until a building permit application was submitted, Balsamo Real Estate filed a lawsuit in Delaware Superior Court, seeking a writ of mandamus commanding the town uphold its code.

Arguments were heard throughout the fall and winter months. And in March, a judge dismissed the case.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.