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State highlights Downtown Development District progress, announces next round of grants

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Annie Ropeik/Delaware Public Media
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Officials gathered at this house on downtown Dover's Mary Street, built with development district funds.

State and local officials recognized some of the first visible impacts of small grants that are part of Dover's Downtown Development District Friday.

They gathered outside a brand new house on Mary Street, one of two properties built or rehabbed with a portion of a $1 million fund in the state’s development district program.  That's in addition to the $5.6 million set aside for larger projects that invest more than $250,000.

Dover is one of three development districts designated by the state in the program championed by Gov. Jack Markell -- the others are in Seaford and Wilmington.

But on Friday, officials lauded Markell for his support of the capital city throughout his tenure. Meanwhile, Markell says Dover's growth stems from its residents.

"So much of it is about what level of investment are people willing to make in their own community," he said, "which is why I think the investments that we're celebrating today are so important."

He told the grant recipients today that their work will inspire their neighbors -- like one man he'd spoken to recently in Dover:

"A guy told me he had just redone his roof. He said, 'My roof has needed to be redone for 20 years. But now I've done it, because I saw a few of my neighbors investing in their homes.' This is what happens. You see you and you and a few other people make these investments, and you're going to see neighborhoods improved and transformed. And that's what this program is all about."

The state also announced its next round of downtown development district grants Friday -- $8 million for all three districts combined, with applications due later this year. Officials say they've taken steps to make the smaller grants more flexible and accessible for the next cycle.