Business booming with new projects in Dover

Joseph Simon busily mends shoes while customers wait at his Fast Feet Shoe Repair business at 222 S. DuPont Highway in Dover. Mr. Simon moved from his longtime location in the Dover Mall last year. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

DOVER — They construct, upgrade, arrive and relocate within city limits.

Believing in the local economic climate, businesses are filling Dover with more options for living, medical care, tires, home furnishings, eating out and much more.

According to city officials, 238 new or substantial reconstruction projects received Certificates of Occupancy in 2018. Others are in various stages in completion and some do not require COs.

“If a site selector or commercial agent is looking around, it’s obvious that this town has a lot of things going on,” Dover Planning and Inspections Director Dave Hugg said.

“That’s a sign of a good economy, and Dover is in pretty good shape right now.”

Dave and Susan Lewkowitz operated Jeweler’s Loupe in the Dover Mall for 20 years, but rising rent instigated a search for a new location. With some trepidation of leaving two decades of a solid business spot behind, the owners still believed they could be somewhat selective elsewhere.

“I’ve always thought it was a good business climate here,” Mr. Lewkowitz said. “With all the new construction in Dover it was a no-brainer. There’s plenty of options but it was a matter of finding the best location to fit our needs because you always have in the back of your mind the thought of not being sure that a loyal customer base will follow.”

Since moving to 1574 N. DuPont Highway in a 2,100-square-foot store, the co-owner said, “Our business has picked up since we left (the mall). The old customers followed us and there are plenty of new faces coming through the doors as well.”

According to Mr. Lewkowitz, “If the service and product is good, anyone can do well with a small business here in Dover.

“You have to put the time and effort into it, but you will succeed if you do that.”

After operating Jeweler’s Loupe in the Dover Mall for 20 years, co-owner Dave Lewkowitz moved his location to 1574 N. DuPont Highway in a 2,100-square-foot store. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

City officials are beaming about the additions and upgrades, which led Mr. Hugg to enjoy his recent presentation before the Mayor’s Economic Development Committee.

The city of 38,000 issued 60 commercial project COs, 144 single-family, townhouse and duplex residences and 29 permits for apartment buildings with 378 units total. New residences could bring nearly 1,360 new residents to the city based on average number of family members.

“It’s a confirmation that this is not an exception to where we are,” said Dover Chief Building Inspector Greg Akers, nearing 16 years of city employment. “It’s not a theory. It shows up in a computer through the numbers.”

Mr. Hugg believes that the city’s population grown is underestimated, and official numbers of 1 percent should actually be more like 3 percent. He’s awaiting the 2020 census to confirm his hunch.

“The number of utility customers, those who pay taxes and rent is growing at a good clip,” he said.

Dover Planning and Inspections Director Dave Hugg stands below a screen that loops ongoing projects and city information
(Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

City staff is busy conducting the up to 16 inspections that might come with the permitting process, and the business has proved to be lucrative for HVAC and plumbing companies that ready them for occupancy.

Touting luxury living in the heart of Dover, Greens at Cedar Chase has recovered nicely from a December 2016 fire that destroyed six apartments of 12 in a building. The residences at 1700 N. DuPont Highway were rebuilt and upgraded last year, and property manager Marissa Moore said “It’s been pretty busy. Our doors stay moving.”

The residences are filled by nearby college students, foreigners attending or teaching at Delaware State University and Dover Air Force Base personnel.

“There can be a lot of relocating, but more people keep arriving in their place,” Ms. Moore said.

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