Developer trio in talks for Loockerman Plaza project
DOVER — A group of well-known developers in southern Delaware are in discussions to buy 55 Loockerman Plaza from city officials and turn it into a combination of retail, office and residential space.
Dover officials are currently in negotiations with LGPI VA LLC, a development team that includes Frank DiMondi, Tom Kramadeas of Axia Hotel Group and Mike Glick of Lighthouse Construction Group, to sell the former Dover Post Office for redevelopment. Earlier this summer, the city requested proposals to buy the historic building on the condition that it be transformed into a use more in line with the vision in the Dover master plan.
While specifics of the site plan proposed by LGPI VA is under wraps for now, DiMondi said their strategy is to retain the aesthetics of the half-century-old structure on Loockerman Plaza.
“We took the structure and tried to keep as much as you could when it comes to the look, but modernized it,” DiMondi told the Delaware Business Times. “That’s the goal right now, unless engineering tells us otherwise. The idea is if you drive by or bike past it, it still looks like the old post office in a sense. I think that’s what won some of the panel over.”
Preliminary ideas for the property include a restaurant with outdoor dining on the first floor as well as 33,000 square feet of office space on the second floor that could be divided up to be rented in small offices, DiMondi said.
The rest of the project is slated to become 30 or more market-rate apartments, though it is still an early concept.
“From a cost standpoint, it’s hard to maintain low [rental] rates and expect some kind of return. I would think market-rate apartments would attract anyone to it,” DiMondi said. “That said, I don’t think there are any final decisions right now, and it’s something we would have to talk about.”
DiMondi is a developer with commercial, industrial and residential properties, including the rising Wyoming Business Park and the Camden Business Center. Kramedas is the president of Axia, which manages at least nine hotels and other restaurants in central and southern Delaware. Glick is the senior project manager at Lighthouse Construction, which has remodeled and built major southern projects, like the Dogfish Brewing Company building in Milton.
DiMondi’s and Kramedas’ fathers were in business together, and that led the foundation for the sons to forge their own partnership. After the men contracted with Glick and Lighthouse Construction to build a new office complex on North Street in Dover, a new relationship was formed. Several state agencies, including the Department of Insurance, leased space out of that building in 2019.
“Lighthouse is a powerhouse in the state, and it made sense for all three of us to pull together,” DiMondi said.
Dover officials have pinpointed 55 Loockerman Plaza as one of the key properties to help jumpstart revitalization of the city’s downtown area. After consulting firm Mosaic Development Partners studied the district for a year, it outlined a vision for the downtown that includes more apartments and activated first floors through retail and restaurants. High-priority redevelopment sites include those owned by the DDP or the city, as that clears the path to get property owners on board.
Furthermore, 55 Loockerman Plaza is in a very visible space, as it’s on the gateway into the downtown and not far from state offices and the Legislative Mall. For 55 years, the U.S. Postal Service leased the brick building until the post office was relocated to Queen Street in 2020.
“The entire city would tell you that’s a gateway area, so it’s a great place to start the redevelopment plan,” DiMondi added. “I grew up in Dover. I used to go to that post office and get the mail, and all these years later it looks similar to what it did back then. If we can incorporate the existing design, that would be pretty exciting.”
Dover officials contracted with the Commercial Moving Experience, led by broker and Downtown Dover Partnership Chairman Todd Stonesifer and father-and-son duo Chuck and Jeff Spiegelman, to market the property. The property was on the market for weeks before 14 bids were submitted.
A review committee consisting of Mayor Robin Christiansen, City Manager David Hugg, Assistant City Manager Sharon Duca, then-Planning Director Mary Ellen Gray and Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce President Dina Vendetti culled that list to three proposals. Those finalists were interviewed by the panel in early September. LGPI VA was recommended by the committee, and the Dover City Council voted in early October to start negotiations.
“I am pleased to find a development team that meets our aspirations and reflects the Dover Master Plan,” Christiansen said in a statement. “I am beyond grateful that so much interest was shown in revitalizing the facility that is located in the heart of our city while retaining the historical image. It is my hope that the others who came forward with proposals will keep us in mind as we continue to manifest our goals, making Dover a great place to live, work and play.”
Looking at the property, DiMondi noted that the city has done some asbestos remediation inside. Possible cracks in the foundation could be another issue, and will require an engineering firm to study what the next step is to get the property ready for remodeling. Aside from potential structural issues, DiMondi worries about parking. Right now, the city is weighing changes to its zoning code to eliminate parking requirements that officials believe stymied residential development in the past.
Pending the permitting process and weighing potential incentives and grants, DiMondi hopes that LGPI VA can start the project in a year.
“There is a sense of pride that comes with this project for me, to be honest, and a sense of responsibility. It’s one of the first things you see right after you drive over Silver Lake. It is one of the first two projects the city is going to look at to springboard into the future to finally turn the downtown around,” he added.