Five towns added to Delaware downtown development program

Market Street Village apartments opened in Wilmington earlier this year. The project was created in part with funds from the Downtown Development Districts program. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Market Street Village apartments opened in Wilmington earlier this year. The project was created in part with funds from the Downtown Development Districts program. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

A program designed to spark construction growth in Delaware’s downtown communities is expanding to even more towns.

Downtown investors in Smyrna, Milford, Harrington, Georgetown and Laurel will soon be able to tap into state incentives to build.

“More Delawareans than ever want to live and work in walkable, urban areas,” said Gov. Jack Markell, as he announced the expansion Wednesday morning in Smyrna. “This expansion will help meet that demand by encouraging private development of downtown areas statewide.”

First approved by state lawmakers in 2014, the Downtown Development District program helps investors in the selected districts to receive grants of up to 20 percent of their construction costs. Those grants have totaled $14 million since early 2015. That grant money has spurred more than $290 million in private investment.

“The Downtown Development Districts program already is driving major investment in our cities, from Market Street in Wilmington to the banks of the Nanticoke River in Seaford,” Markell said. The first three districts approved in the program were Wilmington, Dover and Seaford.

Earlier this year, city leaders celebrated the opening of 76 apartment units in downtown Wilmington that were constructed in part with funds from this program. “This program is working, and we’ve seen the proof in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford. We look forward to even more progress statewide,” said Anas Ben Addi, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority.

Next month, DSHA will launch a new round of funding focused on large projects in each of the designated districts. While grant requests for small projects are accepted on an ongoing basis, the large project funding round launching in September will make nearly $8 million available for projects throughout the state.

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