Cash rebates, fee waivers, tax benefits and financial grants all are part of the formula for enticing prospective developers to come to downtown Dover.
The incentives are part of Dover’s January designation as a Downtown Development District by Gov. Jack Markell. The program awarded $7 million, to be split between Dover, Wilmington and Seaford, as a means of encouraging private investment in the hopes of bringing residential and business opportunities.
How the program will work, including the numerous financial incentives it will offer, will be the subject of three workshops Thursday at the Dover Public Library. One is in the morning, one in the afternoon, and one in the evening.
To help bring the necessary private investment, the city will continue to provide waivers for building permits, business licenses and sewer and water impact fees, Director of Planning and Community Development Ann Marie Townshend said during a Monday morning press conference. Other programs, such as transfer tax rebates, waivers of license fees for new businesses and homeownership tax incentives, were adopted during the Feb. 23 meeting of Dover city council.
Concentrating on the inner city is important, Mayor Robin Christiansen said. The downtown, Christiansen noted, is the “heart” of the Capital City.
“If we do not have a healthy heart, then the rest of the city is not going to be a healthy and viable place for us to do business and to live and raise our families,” he said.
Dealing with the problems of downtown, including crime and deteriorating building stock, absorbs a significant amount of the city’s resources, with little gained in return, he said.
“We feel the revitalization of this area will make it a tax generating area … to increase our tax base and make the city more viable,” Christiansen said.
Assistant City Manager Kirby Hudson, who has worked with downtown revitalization efforts in the past, said a number of private investors already have shown an interest in coming to downtown.
“One of the things that I cannot stress more than anything is that in order for this to be successful, we have to be able to clean up some of that blight that’s in the downtown area,” Hudson said. Cooperation between the city and its residents will be key to that success, he added.
The waivers will cost the city some lost income – the DDD funding will not make up for fee waivers – but the eventual result will be new growth that will bring in new revenue.
“In theory, we’re giving up revenue, but if we don’t do this, we’re not likely to see the [private] investment,” Townshend said.