Plans to transform downtown Dover launched with $25 million in state funding

Revitalization plans include critical infrastructure upgrades and a six-story retail-residential project

Listen 1:18
Norman Royal poses for a picture outside

Walking down South Governors Avenue, Dover resident Norman Royal takes a moment to observe the poster boards displaying plans for the new facilities on the street.(Johnny Perez-Gonzales/WHYY)

From Philly and the Pa. suburbs to South Jersey and Delaware, what would you like WHYY News to cover? Let us know!

Long-awaited change is finally on the horizon for Dover. City planners say that change will arrive by 2030 as the result of a multimillion dollar investment designed to breathe new life into the heart of Delaware’s capital.

“We’ve been working on revitalizing downtown Dover since 1991,” said Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen. “I’ve seen Dover since I was a child grow from a thriving downtown to the advent of the malls when businesses downtown vacated and went to the new and shiny malls.”

As malls have been on the decline, Christiansen says the downtown area could thrive again.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I believe people are still looking for your boutique-type of stores and shops and this certainly will be conducive to bring people back downtown so they can enjoy the ambience of the city of Dover and the history that’s in proximity.”

The Capital City 2030 Strategic Plan includes three projects, backed by a $25 million allocation in state funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. These initiatives are geared towards driving the development of new residences, businesses and parking amenities.

The three projects include:

  • Critical water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades, estimated at $1.7 million.
  • A six-story center with a community grocery store, daycare, and retail and residential space at 120 South Governors Avenue, costing around $80 million.
  • A multilevel transportation center with more than 300 parking spaces, bus stops, bike share and electric charging at South Governors Avenue and South Bradford Street, projected to cost about $14 million.

The new work would be an addition to the host of amenities and attractions already in place in Dover such as Legislative Hall, Dover City Hall, the public library, numerous state offices, the historic landscape of Delaware’s national park known as “The Green,” and the new Dover Post Office.

“The City of Dover has a solid roadmap for its revitalization, building on efforts the city and its partners have been making over the last several years, and this state funding will make those plans a reality,” Christiansen said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“I’ve always referred to the revitalization of downtown Denver as a revitalization of our city’s heart. If you have a healthy heart, you’ll have a healthy city across the board,” he said. “It’s going to be an economic engine not only for just the downtown area, but for the entire city.”

Norman Royal is a designer and “up-cyclist” at Top Notch who’s lived in Dover for 30 years. He expressed enthusiasm for the forthcoming changes. He said enhancing the value of the area will provide vital resources to the community and address long-standing needs.

Considering the new change and the six-story retail/residential building, his initial thought was of the unhoused.

“If [they] were able to put some of those people that don’t have homes in some of those houses, in those residential areas up top, then it’ll be amazing,” Royal said. “Because like I said, there’s a lot of people on these streets in Dover that [are] kind of homeless or addicted to drugs.”

Royal’s shop is across the street from where the transportation hub and six-story building will soon rise on South Governors Avenue. He said community involvement is vital as the downtown area welcomes more businesses and residents.

“We need more community involvement in regards to bringing people together for a good time, like that’s still a thing to me. That’s what makes the community a little bit more impactful, for the youth who are going to be running the community later on and even older people who want to feel safe,” he said.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal