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Delaware's Downtown District program to expand

Downtown Development Districts
Delaware Public Media

Gov. Jack Markell’s Downtown Development District program is poised to expand.

Markell announced Wednesday morning that more cities will be selected to participate in the initiative later this year.

The program seeks to help cities and towns revamp their downtowns through incentives and other benefits designed to spur investment. The incentives include giving investors who make qualified real estate investments in a district grants up to 20 percent of their costs.

“We’ve seen across the country, a lot of cities really thriving as people move back into cities to live, work and enjoy themselves. And we want to see the same thing in Delaware,” said Markell.


Sites in Wilmington, Dover and Seaford were the first selected for program last January from a poll of nine applications.  Since then, $9.7 million in state funds have been funneled into their districts to leverage more than $160 million in private investment.

Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz says she can already see the impact the program has had in the state’s largest city.

“It’s been an economic boom for our downtown and as the residential units continue to grow, we continue to make the downtown a great place to live,” said Shabazz, who is running for City Council president.

Projects in Wilmington include a public parking garage that includes ground floor retail space and apartments above it.  Blighted homes are being fixed up in Dover's downtown district, while high-end housing developments are being built in the one in Seaford.

The deadline for municipalities to apply for this next round of districts is June 1st. Applications will be handled by the Office of State Planning Coordination.

The Downtown Development District program was initially proposed by Markell in his 2014 State of the State address and breezed through the General Assembly with bipartisan support.

The initial round guaranteed that one district would be selected in each county.

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