Dover kicks off “Unlock the Block” program to bring new businesses downtown

State and local officials on Monday gathered in downtown Dover to kick off “Unlock the Block,” an initiative to help landlords attract new business tenants.

The Delaware Division of Small Business and the City of Dover will work together to fill vacant commercial spaces through a pitch competition judged by local experts. The winning businesses will receive a mix of fee waivers, consulting, technical assistance and cash incentives.

Gov. John Carney said “Unlock the Block” could serve as a model for other Delaware cities and towns looking to boost economic activity in their downtowns or main streets.

“Delaware’s small cities and towns offer an exceptional quality of life and an authentic experience to those who live, work or shop there. They are one of the reasons tourists choose to come to Delaware,” Carney said. “Small business is a crucial part of Delaware’s economy.  Some 96 percent of businesses in the state have 50 employees or fewer, so an initiative like ‘Unlock the Block’ is key to keeping our downtowns filled with strong small businesses that make those downtowns the kind of place people want to live and visit.”

So far, four commercial properties available for lease are participating in the “Unlock the Block” program. The locations include:

  • 1 West Loockerman Street: This landmark building is located at the prominent corner of State and Loockerman streets. The 6,000 square-foot space (sub-dividable) includes a commercial kitchen and bar area.
  • 155 S. Bradford Street: This newly renovated office space on the second floor above 33 West offers five flexible offices suites and a shared conference room.
  • 204 Loockerman Street: The 1,200 square-foot space is on the ground floor of a four-story apartment building next to Bayard Pharmacy, at the corner of Loockerman and South Governors streets. It would be suitable for retail or office space.
  • 147 S. Governors Avenue: This space was formerly occupied by a bakery so it would be ideal for use as a bakery or could be reconfigured for retail or office use.

The deadline for applications from prospective tenants is July 9. A pitch competition will follow in late July/early August, with winners announced August 15.

The Dover-based video production company Big River Film Co. presented its video celebrating other successful businesses at the launch event.

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