Critical Improvements Press Release
November 9, 2022
Property Improvements Program Launched
(Dover, DE) The Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP) announced Wednesday the launch of a new grant program to assist property owners of buildings on and near Loockerman Street in downtown Dover. The Critical Improvements Program will provide significant financial incentives for improvements made to existing properties, with a priority on addressing critical life-safety and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliance issues, preparing spaces with commercial kitchens, and ensuring that properties become leased once improvements are made.
Funding in the amount of $1.275 M was awarded to the DDP in July from the Delaware Community Redevelopment Fund to create the new grant program. Coupled with $100,000 from the DDP and at least $300,000 from the property owners themselves, the DDP anticipates that total investment in bringing these buildings up to today’s standards will total well over $1.6 M by December of 2024.
Diane Laird DDP Executive Director explained, “The high rate of vacancy in the Dover central business district is worsened by the fact that vacant buildings are in extremely poor condition. The gap in financing to bring them up to current usability versus the actual property value once the buildings are improved is simply too wide for property owners to make the needed improvements. But doing so will make them more leasable, and that will spur economic growth in the commercial core of Delaware’s Capital City.”
These kinds of improvements support “Capital City 2030: Transforming Downtown Dover,” the strategic master plan which began last February. According to DDP Board President Todd Stonesifer, “We have a team of partners across the city, county, and state that are ready to start implementing recommendations that we don’t even have in hand yet to begin a literal transformation of downtown Dover.” The plan will include strategies to create lots of residential units, varied transportation modes, design standards and guidelines, and the financing tools necessary to make this happen. “This grant program is one of those kinds of tools and the DDP is implementing it now in anticipation of new development so that property owners can lease competitively next to new construction.”
City Manager Dave Hugg is very pleased to see the grant program being launched. “Older properties are often prone to fires due to failing electrical wiring and the lack of fire suppression systems that can only be addressed through these kinds of important retrofits. And they can be very costly.” Many of Dover’s commercial buildings also lack ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements, such as ramps, rest rooms, and widened accessways. In addition, incentives to develop commercial kitchens are needed to prepare spaces for new restaurants and eateries that are vital for a thriving business district.
The program launched with program guidelines and a Pre-Application for property owners to complete and submit by November 30. Funds could cover up to 75% of the eligible costs. “We will look at each application with the priorities of the grant program and anticipated completion timeframes in mind, as well as occupancy status of the properties,” Laird said. Funds will not be dispersed to the property owners until work is completed according to the approved applications, a certificate of occupancy is obtained, and properties are leased and occupied for thirty days.
The DDP is strategizing to see small projects completed by April, as well as larger projects completed no later than October 2024. A DDP Critical Improvements Review Panel will review the Pre-Applications in early December. Property owners will need to meet with the City Planning office to determine if projects are feasible, and if so, complete the final application that will be available in December to be considered for a grant award.
The DDP anticipates receiving the final master plan from Mosaic Development Partners within the next month and is targeting several of these improvement projects to be underway in immediately thereafter.
For information on the grant program and the master plan, visit: www.DowntownDover.com
The Downtown Dover Partnership is committed to driving an improved quality of life for the residents and visitors of Dover, Delaware, through collective collaboration, economic development and promotion of downtown Dover’s unique historic properties. Call 302-678-2940 or visit: www.DowntownDover.com