State to spend $25 million in effort to turn around Dover’s struggling downtown

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The State of Delaware plans to spend more than $25 million in three projects aimed at revitalizing downtown Dover.

“The State of 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,” said Gov. John Carney. “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.”

Dover has struggled for decades with its historic downtown, which is adjacent to Legislative Hall and near Delaware State’s (formerly Wesley College) campus. One negative is that the concentration of government jobs that might bring more people downtown is less in Dover than in other state capitals, with many agencies either based or having large operations in northern Delaware.

A retail boom and perhaps overbuilding over the decades is now leading to Dover Mall struggling to keep tenants and the former Blue Hen Mall now an office complex

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Meanwhile, other downtown areas in the state have been seeing turnarounds, with state funds attracting private investment. In Wilmington, apartment development has increased the number of people living downtown and on its riverfront. Milford and Seaford are also reporting progress. The Wilmington Riverfront turnaround that has led to upwards of $1 billion in private investment was engineered with the help of state funding.

The proposed funding marks the final funding for the Capital City 2030 strategic plan, which was completed in 2023 and envisions transforming downtown Dover with new residences, businesses, parking, and infrastructure.

With $10 million proposed in the Fiscal Year 2025 recommended Bond Bill and $15.1 million coming from Carney’s office from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act, the City of Dover and Downtown Dover Partnership will be able to proceed with:

  • Water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades necessary to support downtown development, with a projected cost of $1.7 million.
  • A six-story retail and residential building at 120 South Governors Avenue, envisioned to have a community grocery store, daycare and retail space along with 140 to 180 residential units, with a total projected cost of around $80 million.
  • A multilevel transportation center between South Governors and South Bradford Street with more than 300 parking spaces, bus stop, bike share, and electric vehicle charging to serve downtown businesses and provide parking for the new retail-residential building across the street, with a projected cost of about $14 million.

The Downtown Dover Partnership has selected Mosaic Development Partners to create the strategic plan and develop the two properties. Mosaic has a track record of redevelopment projects around Philadelphia, including at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Wilmington-based Colonial Parking Inc. is also a partner in the project.

The state funding will be split between the city and the Partnership and is expected to fund the utility work and the parking garage construction.

Part of the state funding will be added to private loans and investments, housing tax credits, and grants to finance the retail-residential building. As with revitalization efforts in other cities in recent years, state funding is needed to match private investment at the early stages.  

“The City of Dover has a solid roadmap for its revitalization, building on efforts the city and its partners have been making over the last several years, and this state funding will make those plans a reality” said Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen. “Combining the Governor’s Avenue projects with the city’s recent selection of a redeveloper for the old post office and construction on the new Family Court building and parking garage, the key building blocks for downtown’s future are coming into place.”

“All I can say is wow. The pieces of the puzzle that form Capital City 2030 are coming together. The plan truly spells out the direction for revitalization of our downtown that is so needed,” said Todd Stonesifer, Downtown Dover Partnership chair and downtown business owner. “With the governor’s and Dover-area legislators’ support, I believe the first of many projects are now a reality, and the dominoes will begin to fall rapidly toward fulfilling our goal of a truly transformed Capital City!”

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