Governor signs downtown economic bill

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Markell signs downtown redevelopment bill.
Markell signs downtown redevelopment bill.

Gov. Jack Markell signed Senate Bill 191 to establish economic development incentives that promote revitalization of Delaware’s downtowns.

SB 191 allows for the creation of Downtown Development Districts – a small number of areas in cities in towns that would qualify for development incentives and other state benefits. Senators Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), and Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West), as well as Representatives Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington), and Darryl Scott (D-Dover) were the prime sponsors.

The bill passed unanimously in the General Assembly after receiving support from various municipalities and community organizations.

“Across the country, people from all walks of life are re-discovering our cities and towns as places where they want to live, work, start a business, and raise a family,” said Markell. “This urban resurgence is beginning to happen in Delaware as well—but it could use a ‘shot in the arm.’ It is my
Downtown Milford
hope that this innovative new program to revitalize our downtowns will bring much-needed energy and resources to areas of our state that have been overlooked for too long.”

Through the new program, localities will be able to apply to have a portion of their city, town, or unincorporated area designated as a Downtown Development District (DDD).

Applications will be evaluated using three main criteria: (1) need; (2) the quality of the development plan submitted by the applicant; and (3) local incentives offered. Following the initial round of applications, the Governor will select at least one but no more than three Districts.
Under the program, the first three districts must include 1 District in each county. Up to 15 total districts will be able to qualify at one time.

Subject to funding, investors in the selected districts would be entitled to grants of up 20 percent of their construction costs. Grants will be available for all types of projects (residential, commercial, and mixed-use), and may be used by for-profit builders and investors, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and homeowners. The grants will be administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA).

In addition to the above grants, state agencies will provide additional incentives for qualified activity within districts. For example, DSHA will offer additional funding to renovate vacant and abandoned houses in DDDs, and several state agencies (including DelDOT) will prioritize work in Districts. In addition, under SB 292, a percentage of the state’s existing Historic Preservation Tax Credits will be designated to fund qualifying projects in DDDs, recognizing that this tax credit has been a powerful tool in not only preserving historic structures but also in revitalizing communities. (From the Governor’s Office)

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