Kent County Communities Hoping to Take Advantage of Downtown Development District Program
Some leaders of towns and cities recently adopted into a Delaware program that offers incentives to builders who redevelop or rehab properties in downtown areas, say they’re hoping to see major growth in their communities.
Delaware’s Downtown Development District program expanded this year to include Georgetown, Harrington, Laurel, Milford, and Smyrna. The first three participants in the program were the cities of Dover, Seaford and Wilmington.
Through the DDD, developers can apply for incentives like loans to recoup up to 20 percent of the cost to redevelop properties located within designated sections of participating towns and cities. Local incentives are also offered by some of the municipalities.
Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe said the program aligns with the existing Rivertown Rebirth initiative and wants it to bring new businesses and viable housing to the city through mixed-use development.
“We have a lot of millenials and baby boomers who are residing in our area so we want to be able to make sure we can meet their needs,” he said.
About $8 million was budgeted by the state in this year’s budget for projects in the districts. Officials have said $14 million of investment has already led to roughly $290 of private investment.
The Delaware State Housing Authority administers funds to successful applicants.
Smyrna Town Manager David Hugg, a longtime Delaware resident and former state employee who has spent more than a decade with the town, said he’s hopeful the incentives will boost the profile of the downtown area by reducing the number of old, vacant buildings that don’t return value to the community.
Noting that Smyrna has long been considered “a town that’s slept quietly by the side of the road,” Hugg said he anticipates the program will increase the number of building rehabilitation and redevelopment projects like ones going on at the Wright Mansion and other parts of the area.
“This is really the one time the state has come forward and said we recognize the importance of downtown communities,” he said.