Gov. Jack Markell designated five new Downtown Development Districts Wednesday – Smyrna, Harrington, Milford, Laurel and Georgetown.
The development districts – which aim to drive private investment in towns and cities – offer development incentives and state grant rebates to investors who make qualified improvements to residential, commercial or industrial properties in downtown districts.
“The Downtown Development Districts program already is driving major investment in our cities, from Market Street in Wilmington to the banks of the Nanticoke River in Seaford,” Markell said.
“More Delawareans than ever want to live and work in walkable, urban areas. This expansion will help meet that demand by encouraging private development of downtown areas statewide.”
Since early 2015, the program has brought new private development to the three original development districts — Wilmington, Dover and Seaford. About $14 million in state grant funding leveraged more than $290 million of private investment, according to the governor’s office.
“Smyrna has been working hard to grow our downtown, and the Downtown Development District designation will help ignite even more progress and at a quicker pace,” Smyrna Mayor Joanne Masten said. “The grant program will open doors for our wide range of developers and business owners with opportunities to further strengthen our town. We’re grateful that Governor Markell has made this initiative available to so many wonderful downtowns in Delaware.”
Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe said, “The Downtown Development District application process has been a great experience for the City of Milford. It has allowed us to explore and evaluate the public and private, commercial, and residential assets within the downtown district.
Harrington Mayor Anthony R. Moyer said his city recently adopted a development district plan with input from business people, community members, a downtown task force and various organizations. “The City recently approved five district-specific incentives and ten other city-wide incentives, created several development resources, and ensured infrastructure was in place,” he said. “With this designation, our downtown is certain to prosper, maintain its character, and be the center of our community.
Georgetown Mayor Bill West said the he and the town council are committed to revitalizing the downtown and the designation and incentives will kick start residential and commercial investment there.
“Initial efforts will be to complete our implementation plan, communicate the designation to all properties within the district boundaries, and invite new and existing projects to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.
The Downtown Development District program, administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority, makes applicants received development grants eligible for up to 20 percent of their construction costs in the form of a rebate, received when the projects are completed. Local incentives are also available for qualifying projects.
In early September, the housing authority will launch a new funding round for large projects in each of Delaware’s Downtown Development Districts. Nearly $8 million in funding will be available for projects statewide. Applications to fund small projects – defined as investments of less than $250,000 in a designed downtown district – are accepted on a rolling basis.
“We’re thrilled to work with homeowners, developers, and small business owners to drive investment in all of the newly-designated districts,” said Anas Ben Addi, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority. “This program is working, and we’ve seen the proof in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford. We look forward to even more progress statewide.”