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Downtown Dover plan now fueled by $25M in state funds

Katie Tabeling
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Downtown Dover plan

$25 million will be invested to help re-develop 120 S. Governor’s Ave. in Dover into a mixed-use complex, including a grocery store and other retail concepts. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DDP

DOVER — Gov. John Carney is investing $25 million in the multi-million dollar vision to transform downtown Dover, fueling redevelopment for city infrastructure and private developers already signed on for key property sites.

The governor has committed $10 million in the proposed Fiscal Year 2025 bond bill as well as $15.1 million from the state’s share of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. These funds are targeted to redevelop 120 S. Governor’s Ave. as a mixed-use complex complete with grocery store, a transportation center as well as water and wastewater upgrades.

Mosaic Development Partners and Colonial Parking Inc. have already signed a preliminary agreement to redevelop 120 S. Governor’s Avenue as a six-story complex to include a grocery store, daycare apartments and other retail options. Right now, the plan includes 140 rental units.

Between South Governors and South Bradford Street, the plan is to build a transportation center complete with a mixed-use building with a parking garage, bus stop, electric vehicle charging station and bike share. The garage would have more than 300 parking spaces.

Combined, both projects are projected to cost $94 million. But with investing the public funds, the Carney administration hopes that this will encourage other developers to take note and invest private funds.

“Delaware has a vested interest in the success of downtown Dover, not only because it is our capital city, but because it is where thousands of state employees work and where many would like to live,” Carney said in a prepared statement. “The current downtown Dover revitalization plan builds on years of ideas about how to breathe new life into the area, with specific projects laid out by an experienced redeveloper to attract residents and businesses. This is the jumpstart downtown Dover has been waiting for, and we are proud to be a part of it.”

While the bond bill, like the rest of Carney’s proposed spending plan, still has to go through hearings and may be changed before it’s passed in June, the ARPA funds only need a signed agreement before released to Dover officials and the Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP).

Since 2022, the DDP has been leading the efforts to reimagine the Capital City’s downtown into a place where residents live in apartments above stores and businesses and transportation hub serves the area’s largest employers. But in order to fully realize that dream, DDP Executive Director Diane Laird noted that the public and private partners need to buy into the concept.

“This funding represents a significant show of support by Gov. Carney as well as other state representatives that support the plan, and it also allows us to move forward with primary priorities like 120 S. Governors Ave. project,” Laird said. “I believe the governor’s been very much in support of the plan since last spring, and this generous funding will really be a catalyst to our transformation efforts.”

Sen. Trey Paradee (D-Dover), Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover) and Rep. Kerri Evelyn Harris (D-East Dover)  celebrated the news in a joint statement, noting that the state funds will help lift the Capital City up to draw in new residents from major employers in the area.

“This incredible investment in downtown Dover represents a potential game changer in our ongoing efforts to revitalize the heart of Kent County,” Paradee said in a statement. “On behalf of my constituents, I want to thank Governor John Carney for his unwavering commitment to the Capital City…. The investments being announced today will continue that work by bringing new housing, new shops and a new parking garage to downtown Dover.”

The path ahead

Two years ago, Mosaic Development Partners unveiled a master plan that outlined steps for a $500 million investment in about 15 acres of developable land throughout the city. Breaking that down, that includes 97,700 square feet of commercial space, a 27,500-square-foot grocery store, a riverwalk that augment the 21 acres of open space, and more. 

But before the city and the DDP can realize those plans, Dover officials have to work to replace aging water and sewer lines. In the past, the city has struggled to retain businesses because of the expense to get historic properties up to modern code, including sprinkler systems, ADA compliant bathrooms and curbs.

Part of the state’s funding will also allow Dover to move on $1.7 million in water and sewer upgrades to support new businesses. The DDP is also continuing the state-funded  Critical Improvement Program to provide businesses with grants to make these renovations, and the first round provided eight businesses with $1.2 million. A second round of funding was recently announced last week.

“It’s like you can’t build a house without the foundation in place. Those improvements have to be made,” Laird said.

In terms of the redevelopment for 120 S. Governors, Laird has said that she sees the project not only as a linchpin to the master plan’s success, but also in terms of drawing more interest. 

As the DDP waits on finalizing the capital stack to sign a final agreement for 120. S. Governors, the organization is already considering other projects like 55 Loockerman Plaza and others. Last week, the DDP started soliciting bids to demolish 680 to 684 Forest Street.

“We’re also waiting for funding for the housing portion that needs to be secured, and that’s several thousands of dollars,” Laird said. “That’s a vital next step and we expect to have that answered in the next two months.”

 

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