Crews have been working to demolish a vacant store to make way for a new Family Dollar store on Loockerman Street.
Demolition crews from the Melvin Joseph Construction Company are busy tearing through the bricks and steel trusses of a former auto parts store as a prelude to construction of a new discount retail store in downtown Dover.
The site, at 300 W. Loockerman St., most recently was that of a NAPA auto parts store. The building is being demolished to make way for a new Family Dollar discount store.
But this Family Dollar won’t look like the usual box-style building most people expect, said Danny Shaub, project manager for the Dreamwerks construction and management company.
“This store will blend into historic downtown Dover,” Shaub said. “The Dover Historic District Commission gave us some very strict guidelines for what we could do.”
Shaub took numerous photographs of buildings along Loockerman Street to give designers an idea of what the neighborhood looked like.
“A typical Family Dollar store is a pre-engineered building, but this will be nothing like that,” he said. “This will be block and brick with details selected from various historic buildings on Loockerman Street.
“We’re very excited about it.”
The plan is a substantial venture for the western end of Loockerman Street, said project developer Mike Zimmerman.
“This project represents an investment of over $1.6 million, with local contractors and suppliers along with many local jobs during construction and operation,” he said.
The project will be a boost to the downtown area, said Ed Perez, of the city of Dover’s Economic Development Office.
“It’s an extremely welcome addition that’s a significant redevelopment project for the economic base of the west side of Dover,” he said. “We’re looking forward to that, and hopefully this is just the beginning of other projects occurring on the west side.”
Downtown businesses have complained for years that they’re not getting their share of attention when it comes to bolstering the fortunes of the western end of Dover’s central thoroughfare.
“It seems the east end of Loockerman Street is very nice,” Shaub said. “You can walk up and down that street and see the shop owners have done an excellent job.
“That sort of falls off when you move west, but we hope this project will help extend the business district and the historic look of Dover to the end of the business district.”
The earliest building on the site was the Dover Machine Works, shown on an 1887 map of the city. It later was used as an automobile junk yard, but photographs from the 1960s show the current building was a Volkswagen dealership.
It later evolved into the NAPA store, but has been vacant for several years.
Demolition started on April 22 with the removal of interior structures and glass, Shaub said. The work revealed automotive oil pits that had been covered over, the sites of work lifts, oil-fired heaters and a long-abandoned basement coal chute. Grills for basement ventilation had been cemented over, Shaub said.
Except for roof trusses stamped with “Bethlehem Steel,” the building was pretty nondescript, Shaub said.
“I wish I had some interesting stories about what we’ve found or what’s been left behind,” he said. “I was hoping to find some vintage Volkswagen lettering, but there’s been nothing.”
The Family Dollar store will include more than 8,300 square feet of retail space, with the main entrance on South New Street. In addressing concerns raised last year by the Historic District Commission, the façade will show the influences of other buildings in the area.
A vacant building that formerly housed the My Place bar is not part of the project and will remain undisturbed, Shaub said.
“As soon as demolition is complete, we have our masons scheduled to come in and start the foundation and the walls,” he said.
“In two or three weeks, you’ll see a building coming up out of the ground.”
“This is going to be a very good looking addition to this end of Dover,” he said.