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Lewes, Delaware
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March 27, 1998     Cape Gazette
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March 27, 1998
 

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52. CAPE GAZETTE, Friday, March 27 - April 2, 1998 BusINESS REAL ESTATE Ferry RV Cape Henlopen receives major overhaul By Michael Short Passengers on the RV Cape Henlopen may not recognize the ferry this summer. The Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) is mounting a major overhaul of the Cape May- Lewes ferries and the Cape Hen- lopen is the latest of the ferries to receive a facelift. What makes this eight-week long, $500,000 refurbishing unique is that it was done locally. The work was done in Cape May,. em- ploying 35 people and saving thou- sands of dol- lars. The result is a more comfortable MCEWING vessel de- signed to at- tract more families and day-trip- pers. There are also several small, but significant safety improve- ments that were included in the overhaul. Passengers will find carpeting in the main passenger area for the first time; more comfortable seat- ing; refurbished bathrooms; more seating with tables; a children's play station in the passenger ar- eas; televisions, one of which will always play kid's videos; and a new red-brown and cream color scheme in the passenger area. There is a bigger gift shop and a more open food service area, de- signed to be more inviting and spacious. The intent was to make the ship more comfortable for passengers, according to DRBA officials. "We conduct a survey each summer to gauge passenger perceptions and expectations of our ferry service," according to Director of Ferry Op- erations Michael Owens. Those surveys showed that peo- ple wanted to be comfortable, hence an upgrade to a more leisurely style of travel. Brian McEwing, the supervisor of vessel maintenance, said the changes have been well received. "One passenger asked, where is the Lazy Boy recliner," McEwing said. "So far, we've gotten an excel- lent reaction...We tried to think like our riders," McEwing said. The bathrooms contain Corian counter tops, which McEwing said is "the type of counter you would like in your bathroom if you could afford it." Pilot Robert Vance said that the new food service area is "much more "user friendly." "Our passengers love the com- fort," McEwing said. The refurbishing began with the Delaware in 1994. The Twin Capes and Cape Henlopen fop lowed and the Cape May is now getting an overhaul at a Norfolk shipyard. By next year, every one of the ferries will have gotten a facelift. "Generally, what we're trying to get at is to give a pasenger more value for their dollar," McEwing said. When the Twin Capes was re- furbished, McEwing said they no- ticed an increase of approximately 50 more passengers per trip, pas- sengers who had asked specifical- ly for the brand-spanking new comfort of the ship. Michael Short photos John Perros enjoys the ride aboard the Cape Henlopen, as he leaves Cape May on the newly improved Cape May-Lewes Ferry. Perros and his family, from Virginia Beach, were enjoying a trip to Atlantic City. The ferry is also safer, although the change may not be obvious. There are rubberized surfaces on the stairs, which provide much better footing on rocking seas. The carpet serves a similar function and floors throughout much of the ferry are now far less slippery. Lifeboats are more modern, lighting is brighter and the door- ways to the passenger area are now automatic. "We have experienced a nice decline in accidents," McEwing said. The principal cause is the au- tomatic doors, which don't sud- denly slam shut in heavy seas, striking passengers or catching fingers and hands in the door. The old manual doors account- ed for 90 percent of passenger ac- cidents and the automatic doors are much safer, McEwing said. The 3-inch door sills are now less than a third of that height, making it harder to trip on the sill, McEwing added. Doing the work locally cost about I/4 of the cost of going to a shipyard, because of the lack of overhead, he said. McEwing esti- mated that going to a shipyard could have cost some $2 million. This not 0nly saved money, but provided a shot in the arm to the local economy, he said. Passengers on the Cape Henlopen will find a new lo- go on the ship this year, one of many changes. Manufactured Housing Institute dispells stereotypes Phyllis McKinley, executive di- rector of the First State Manufac- tured Housing Institute, recently provided an overview of the man- ufactured hou.sing industry to members of the Georgetown- Millsboro Rotary Club. McKinley was a guest of Rotary member Hank McCann. president of Desti- nation Developments. a manufac- tured housing property manage- ment company; he is also a mem- ber of the First State Manufac- tured Housing Institute. As executive director of the in- dustry's state trade association, McKinley was well qualified to discuss an industry that houses about 40 percent of Sussex Coun- ty citizens. She began her presen- tation by explaining the con- stituency of the organization. Members include manufacturers, retail sales companies, land-lease community owners, site develop- ers, banks and finance companies, insurance companies and related vendors. McKinley then discussed the changes in the manufactured housing industry, an industry that has its roots in the days of the 1940s and '50s travel-trailer homes. In those days, trailers were Real Estate Focus really mobile and sheltered immi- grants and transients looking for work. Mobile home parks sprout- ed outside town limits where zon- ing requirements were lax and rents were low. Not undeservedly perhaps, such parks developed an undesirable reputation. Things have changed, however. With the enactment of the Manu- factured Home Construction and Safety Standards Act in 1976 by Congress, a strict national build- ing code for manufactured homes, great improvements in safety, durability, quality construction and designs have made manufac- tured homes a growing choice among homebuyers. No longer "mobile," manufactured homes come in a variety of floor plans and styles and can be custom de- signed. McKinley showed some examples of choices available to consumers, and they were indis- tinguishable from site-built homes. She also showed a short video, which featured retired peo- ple living in a manufactured home community quite similar to those in Sussex County. Both the homes and the people who live in them are completely different from the stereotypes, so what's the prob- lem? According to McKinley, several circumstances continue to fuel a negative image of the industry. For example, as cities and towns have grown, their boundaries now encompass many of the older, once rural, mobile home parks that do not meet today's stan- dards. Although many community operators in these older villages require minimum standards for appearance and upkeep, they are bound by the covenants of the state landlord-tenant code, which prohibits eviction of old homes based on age. Also, many of these residents are poor or elderly who are on fixed incomes and simply cannot afford expensive upgrades. In addition, junked or abandoned homes, which occasionally litter the countryside, add to this nega- tive image. McKinley addressed some addi- tional challenges for the manufac- tured housing industry, including she said, overcoming outdated and discriminatory zoning laws that continue to prohibit siting of new manufactured homes. However, in 1996, in a landmark decision, the Sussex County Council voted unanimously to allow manufac- tured homes on three-quarter acre sites in the ARl-zoned district - the same assite built. McKinley also said that although new manu- factured homes have a useful lifespan of 55 years or more, they continue to be required to be titled through the Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles. After her discussion, McKinley fielded questions, including a query as to whether the lower price of manufactured homes re- flected lower quality. While there is normally (but not necessarily) less "costly gingerbread" with manufactured homes, the majority of cost savings, McKinley said, comes from the factory "economies of scale" and from less interference with interrup- tions in construction from weath- er-related delays. For more infor- mation on the manufactured hous- ing institute, call 800-544-5868.