Two companies to redevelop Riverside properties, bring jobs

Jacob Owens Via DBT

WILMINGTON – Two different manufacturing and construction companies plan to breathe new life into long-vacant properties in the northeast city’s Riverside community, including the former Electric Hose and Rubber Company site.

That former manufacturing hub at 1400 E. 12th St. across the street from the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution has been dormant since 1978, when the plant that made industrial and home garden hoses was closed. Now, New

Jersey-based Advantage Building Supply Corporation plans to reinvigorate the site with 118 new jobs in an expansion of its material supply and door manufacturing businesses.

Led by Paul Rai, a former New York City builder who formed the variety of entities involved with his two sons and a nephew, ABS aims to complete an $8 million redevelopment over the next three years. As part of that project, they have already reportedly secured approvals to reopen the rail connection to bring in raw materials.

The site, which an ABS subsidiary acquired in October for $2.2 million, according to county land records, will require substantial investment to make usable after years of dilapidation. Rai said that he hopes to have the wooden door manufacturing plant as well as the building supply sales center in operation by this spring though. A planned manufacturing plant for metal doors, under the trade name Zulu Fire Doors, will be added later.

The jobs to be offered will include a variety of skilled, unskilled and semi-skilled, including general warehouse workers, machine operators, CNC machine

operators, forklift operators, truck drivers and sales managers. Rai promised to work with the Delaware Department of Labor and community organizations, like REACH Riverside, to identify, recruit and train local employees.

“There’s no reason to bring people from any place else but Delaware first,” Rai said. “We’ll do our fair share to bring employment to the people that’s going to improve their lives and bring revenue to the city.”

On Monday, the state’s investment board, the Council on Development Finance (CDF), unanimously approved a $338,920 incentive package for the project, including $200,920 tied to job creation and a capital expenditure grant of $138,000.

Before settling on the Riverside site, Rai said that ABS had looked at other sites in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and even South Carolina.

“We chose Delaware because of the logistical reasons and the opportunity to acquire the industrial site that we were looking for,” he told the CDF, noting that ABS hopes to expand its door sales market to roughly include the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington, D.C., to New York as they produce upward of 700 doors a day.

“I think this is a great project, and I’m very excited that that will be utilizing this space and the railroad,” said State Sen. Nicole Poore (D-Bear/New Castle), a CDF member. “My Dad was an employee of Electric Hose for many, many years before it closed down, so that actually even warms my heart more that this space is being used.”

While ABS will bring more than 100 jobs to the city, another project just a short distance away will expand a longtime city business, rehab a Brownfield site, and create more than a dozen jobs as well.

Eastern Highway Specialists, a heavy civil contractor currently based at 920 N. Church St. in Wilmington, plans to build and relocate to a larger 21,000-square-foot shop and office building at 3604 Downing Drive near the Interstate 495 interchange off Governor Printz Boulevard.

The $4 million expansion over the next three years will allow the firm to add 18 more semi-skilled or skilled positions, bringing its headcount to 67, said Nathan Field, a manager in the firm run by his father, Robert. The firm looked at sites between Chester, Pa., and Cecil County, Md., but found that the Downing Drive site allowed it to maintain its geographic center for its roughly 60-mile project radius, Field explained.

“We’ve outgrown the place where my parents rented since they started the company in 2003 and we’re looking to make this permanent commitment to the city of Wilmington,” he added. “My family has been in Wilmington for a very long time – my parents were born and raised here – and they’re looking to stake their flag here over the long term in an area of Wilmington that desperately needs investment.”

The CDF unanimously approved a $241,000 incentive package for that project Monday, including $181,000 tied to the job creation and $60,000 tied to the capital expenditure. The project also previously received a $250,000 Transportation Infrastructure Investment Fund grant to build a cul-de-sac and repave the public road leading to the site, benefitting several other neighboring properties as well.

Both of the Riverside projects lie in the city’s Opportunity Zones, a federal redevelopment program that focuses on underserved communities through tax-deferred investments.

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