by Terry Rogers
On Monday, September 14, Milford City Council approved an incentive agreement for Nationwide Healthcare, providing them with a reduction in water and sewer . The company purchased the former Bayhealth Clarke Avenue campus, planning to open an assisted living facility in one section of the building while leasing other areas of the building to various healthcare agencies.
“These incentives provide support for the redevelopment of the former hospital property,” Mark Whitfield, City Manager, said. “The agreement provides incentives for job creation by providing a reduction in water and sewer fees. Construction must be completed within one year, but we do have provisions in the code that will allow additional time due to the pandemic. According to Nationwide, they currently have 26 percent of the square footage leased and anticipate having another 50 percent leased by the end of the year. They will begin paying taxes within another year. This is for the hospital property only and does not include any ancillary properties included in the sale from Bayhealth.”
According to Whitfield, Nationwide plans to spend $18 million to renovate the building into a service-oriented commercial space which will result in the equivalent of 200 full-time jobs. The agreement provides Nationwide with a waiver of 50 EDUs each for water and sewer impact fees. It also provides for a tax abatement for ten years, starting June 7, 2019.
For the first two years, the tax abatement will be for 100 percent of the property taxes paid to the City of Milford. Beginning in the third year, the tax abatement will be reduced by a percentage equivalent to the square feet of space occupied by tenants of the property divided by 266,000 square feet. Part of the space computation will include the 150-bed skill care nursing home facility proposed at the location. Whitfield explained that these are similar to agreements with other large companies in Milford, including Bayhealth.
“I initially had the opportunity to speak to management at Nationwide along with Councilman James, the City Manager and the Mayor,” Councilman Todd Culotta said. “What is presented to us now is the hard work that Mark and Solicitor Dave Rutt have put into this to come into a business-friendly agreement with someone who will be a partner in this City. At its base, Nationwide in that facility will invest a bare minimum of $18 million and they expect a lot more than that, but that is a conservative guess. They also expect to add 200 new jobs. Not only is this an investment in Milford, but it is also in downtown Milford, the older areas that look for redevelopment. These are areas where incentives are necessary and this is a great partnership.”
Councilman James agreed with Councilman Culotta, stating that Bayhealth had always been a good partner with the City of Milford.
“Everyone know the history when Bayhealth decided to build a new hospital,” Councilman James said. “They sought a buyer who would create jobs and that would help increase our tax base. With Nationwide’s presence, the short-term incentives are somewhat designed to allow Nationwide to minimize their costs so they can get tenants in there to occupy their space. They are on the fast track to try to enhance job availability as well as to improve healthcare and even to add education for CNAs. This is a win-win.”
Councilman Andy Fulton found the addition of educational opportunities for Milford residents to be a valid reason to approve the incentives.
“The services they are offering for the City of Milford,” Councilman Fulton said. “They are bringing in educational opportunities and future discussions regarding partnerships with the State of Delaware as far as advanced learning. Adult education in particular will add numerous advantages in Milford. Further educational options will help our young people get training and maybe decide to stay in Milford. This will embolden our city to grow and help families stay here, take ownership of the community and help it get better.”
Mayor Archie Campbell stated that Lt. Governor Bethany Hall Long, who is a registered nurse, announced this week that she would be touring the Nationwide facility on October 29. The incentive agreement passed unanimously.