Wilmington, Dover, and Seaford are getting special state help to revitalize business areas. Dover’s efforts are now in full swing.
Delaware’s capital recently launched the “I believe in Dover” campaign in an effort to attract businesses and people to revitalize its downtown. Officials hope a newer and improved Dover will take on the look of Main Street in Newark.
The city also produced a commercial to highlight reasons why Dover is the place to be. The commercial airs at the Carmike Theater in town and pretty soon it will air on cable.
“I feel like we’re just at a turning point, the stars are aligned in a way that they have never been before, said City Planner Ann-Marie Townshend.
Although downtown Dover has seen its struggles over the years, that could soon be over after it became one of three Delaware cities to be designated a Downtown District. Wilmington and Seaford are also a part of the program and are expected to receive at least $1.7 million dollars to strengthen their downtown districts.
What that means for Dover is 220 acres of land will get a new look, hopefully filling empty storefronts and rental properties.
“There are many tenant spaces for purchase available and there are vacant lots available, so the opportunity to come in and build something great and to bring more people in the downtown is better than it has ever been,” Townshend said.
A vacant lot that’s currently home to an auto-body shop at 120 South Governors Avenue is one of many places the city would like to see developed.
According to Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen focusing on downtown areas is the thing to do nowadays.
“In our history, it was at one time to move away from downtown area. The trend now is getting Generation X to move back downtown because that’s where they want to be,” Christiansen said.
One thing working in favor for the City of Dover is property owners and developers could be eligible for a variety of incentives, grants and tax breaks as well as others who dare to set up shop downtown.
“Short term success I see four or five projects being completed over the next 18 months,” Mayor Christiansen added.
Right now foot traffic in the downtown area appears to be steady during the work week but mostly around lunch time. It starts to taper off the further west you get.
“So part of the plan and goal is to move that momentum, to bring more people to the businesses on the west side but also to expand the times people are spending downtown, Townshend said.
Homeownership is also a key component to the city’s plan especially since the downtown area has an 84 percent rental rate.
“The home ownership adds stability to a neighborhood because you have people you know who have the long term stake in the property that help to maintain the character in the area, and maintain their properties,” Townshend added.
It’s too early to name what developers are willing to make their way to Dover but Townshend said people are showing an interest in investing and they’re both locals and outsiders.
Although work to change the face of Dover’s downtown’s district is still in the beginning stages, the mayor vowed the project will not forget about existing businesses.
“We have some great anchors, the legislative end down where we have a captive workforce all day long. We have the Schwartz Center. We have a great library here so we have quite a few things we are offering now,” Christiansen said.
This week the City of Dover hosted a series of workshops for investors and some local businesses have already submitted applications for funds to renovate existing office space or rental properties.