Mosaic, Colonial Parking named developers on ‘pilot’ Dover project
DOVER — After months of behind-the-scenes work, the Downtown Dover Partnership has announced its most prominent project to date in the name of turning its Capital City 2030 vision into reality.
The DDP has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mosaic Development Partners and Colonial Parking Inc. to redevelop 120 S. Governors Ave. as a joint venture partnership. That site is key to the city’s hopes for revitalization because the plan outlines parking, rental units and possibly a grocery store in one footprint.
The MOU formalizes discussions between the three parties to pave the way to redevelopment, such as infrastructure improvements, zoning requirements and environmental assessment. It is expected that a full agreement for redevelopment will be inked within 90 days.
“There is significant feasibility that has to be done, particularly when you’re one of the lead projects in the redevelopment effort. You want to make sure you have it right, because it’s going to set the tone for the future investment,” Mosaic owner and partner Greg Reaves said. “If we don’t move in a way that provides a framework for other developers to be successful, it will be more hurtful than helpful.”
Mosaic and Colonial Parking are both familiar partners to the DDP. Colonial Parking of Wilmington conducted a downtown Dover parking plan and Mosaic was signed on to develop the “Capital City 2030: Transforming Downtown Dover” over the course of 2022. The DDP received three qualified proposals from Dover-area developers.
“We are thrilled at the response, and we were thrilled that Mosaic was one of them as well as Colonial,” DDP Executive Diane Laird said. “We’re confident in their proposal and that their qualifications were among the highest caliber. It’s also exciting because [Mosaic] did develop the plan, and it shows that there’s a real vote of confidence in it.”
When the DDP first signed on with Mosaic, Laird noted their design experience but also “the possibility of investment immediately following their plans.” The master plan outlines $500 million in large-scale redevelopment and smaller initiatives.
The master plan outlines five sites as catalysts, and 120 S. Governors Ave. was chosen as a test case to see what a developer could do. That property was an Acme grocery store in the 1970s, and the DDP hoped to bring that use back on the first floor. The downtown is a food desert, or areas where low-income families have limited access to supermarkets. The only market option, Black Swamp Artisanal Market, closed earlier this year.
According to the federal Food Access Research Atlas, Dover west of U.S. Route 13 and south of South Church Road “has a relatively high number of households (combined 730 out of 5,910, or 12%) without vehicles that are more than one-half mile from a supermarket.”
Other aspects to the master plan’s outline for 120 S. Governor Ave. would include a two-story parking garage as well as four floors of apartments.A lack of parking has long been discussed by business owners in the district as a deterrent for visitors and shoppers.
Meanwhile, the DDP and its partners continue its work on laying the foundation for major redevelopment. Dover has long struggled with utility and ADA entrance access, and limitations set in the code for use. Dover officials are working on revamping the zoning code, particularly the Central Commercial Zone (C-2) which would affect most of the district. Last weekend, the DDP worked with the Delaware Department of Transportation, the city and others to paint crosswalks to improve walkability.
In addition, the city is soliciting bids on the former U.S. Post office location at Legislative Avenue and Loockerman Street.
“From my perspective, my job is to really start the momentum to ultimately move the dirt,” DDP Development Director Ken Anderson said. “There’s challenges that are typical: the permitting process, making sure the remediation issues that are addressed – and all that was in the works before I arrived. The pressure started when the master plan went public, and that’s good because maybe it wouldn’t have happened without it. Everyone has a part to play to reach this new vision.”
Meanwhile, Reaves said while Mosaic was thrilled to work on the master plan, the group was excited to get involved in a landmark project for the city. Mosaic has a track record of varied projects that succeeded like student housing for Temple University; the Golaski Lab apartments in a former factory in Germantown; a retail and public housing complex in North Philadelphia and more. The firm was also selected to redevelop the South Philadelphia Navy Yard.
To that end, Reaves said the hope is the 120 S. Governors project would inspire other developers to invest in Downtown Dover as well.
“We went after this because we thought it was a good fit for our company. If more development happens around us, that’s proof of concept. We would be more excited when other developers start investing in it,” he said.