Blue Hen Corporate Center makes steady comeback

The Blue Hen Corporate Center in Dover is making a comeback — one tenant at a time.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on May 1 announced plans to relocate its Wilmington VA Medical Center to 655 South Bay Road in the Blue Hen Corporate Center. As part of the move, the outpatient clinic plans to triple in size from 9,200 square feet to 29,745 square feet.

The new clinic, which is expected to open in the summer of 2020, will include 18 primary care exam rooms, 12 mental health rooms and five specialty exam rooms, among other services to support the health and overall wellbeing of veterans.

“Wilmington VA is excited to partner with Pettinaro to bring expanded services and capabilities to Dover,” said Jake Spruance, the chief of facilities at Wilmington VA Medical Center. “The prime location of this CBOC enables us to enhance access with modernized systems and enough room for anticipated growth that will only benefit Veterans of Kent County.”

Over the last decade, the corporate center has relied on large government agencies and health care institutions to fill out a space formerly occupied by banks and insurance companies.

Formerly the Blue Hen Mall, the property was purchased by Pettinaro Management LLC in 2006. The developer has since made a number of investments, including new windows and the repaving of the surrounding parking lot. It also completed The Villages at Blue Hen, a 350-unit apartment complex, in 2018.

The original building was constructed in 1968 as the Blue Hen Mall. At the time, it was Kent County’s most popular shopping destination, until the Dover Mall opened in 1982 and began to draw away business.

The mall was converted into a corporate center in 1998, housing tenants such as Aetna and Bank of America. Both companies left by 2009, however, leaving new owner Pettinaro to come up with a fresh approach to drawing tenants.

“A lot of developers would scrap a building like that, we’ve given it new life,” said Rob Stenta, vice president of commercial leasing at Pettinaro.

In the current economic climate, added Stenta, that meant attracting large government or health care institutions.

Other large tenants include the Social Security Administration, Bayhealth and a number of Delaware state agencies.

The center is currently 50 percent leased. One remaining space includes an 80,000-square-foot call center formerly occupied by Bank of America.

“We are extremely excited to be welcoming the Department of Veterans Affairs to the Blue Hen Corporate Center,” said Gregory Pettinaro, manager of Blue Hen CC, LLC. “Our veterans have done so much for us and the country. It is an honor to have them with us.”

– By Alex Vuocolo

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