Downtown Development District program spurs large projects in Milford, Smyrna

DOVER — A trio of downtown revitalization projects in Milford and Smyrna were among a dozen selected throughout the state to receive funding through Delaware’s Downtown Development Districts (DDD) program, Gov. John Carney and the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA) announced on Thursday.

In Milford, Mispillion Street Partners LLC plans to construct four 12-unit condominium buildings, with 48 total units, to be situated along the Mispillion River at 401 Mispillion St. This will be new construction on a vacant lot and units will consist of two- and three-bedroom options available for renters or buyers. Each unit will have a panoramic view of the Mispillion River and be a short walk to the downtown shopping district.

Also, in Milford, investor and business owner Lisa Johnson plans to complete extensive renovations to the former Abbott’s Grill restaurant building in the Riverwalk Center at 249 NE Front Street.

The restaurant will include a bar and areas for general and fine dining as well as event spaces for catered meetings or parties. Ms. Johnson currently operates a private events business.

“We are excited to be receiving this reservation award from the Downtown Development Districts program,” she said. “This award will allow us to expand upon our growing business in Milford and gives us the opportunity to provide the residents of the city with a new dining option.”

Meanwhile, in Smyrna, with the help of a DDD large project reservation award, investors Randy Dawson and Kaushik Shah plan to renovate and repurpose the former Metal Masters/Harris Manufacturing plant located at 655 Glenwood Ave.

At more than 170,000 square feet, the building will be repurposed for warehousing, recreational and light manufacturing use, and the investors also plan to create a farmers’ market that will provide around 72,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space for tenants to sell merchandise, food, crafts and more.

“The building we are renovating has been vacant and neglected for a number of years,” Mr. Shah said. “This Downtown Development Districts reservation award will allow us the opportunity to bring the site back to life in a meaningful way for the residents of Smyrna.”

Established in May 2014, the DDD program was created to spur private capital investment in commercial business districts and other neighborhoods, stimulate job growth and improve the commercial vitality of cities and towns, and help build a stable community of long-term residents in downtowns and other neighborhoods.

The 12 projects announced Thursday, with nine taking place in Wilmington, received $5.5 million in rebates leveraging $103 million in total investment.

“DSHA is pleased to support these new projects that will renovate empty and vacant buildings, create homes, and bring businesses and jobs to our downtowns,” said Anas Ben Addi, director of the Delaware State Housing Authority. “Community development is central to our mission, and we are encouraged by the continued strong interest in the Downtown Development District program in all eight districts.”

Since the first reservation awards in April 2015, the DDD program has been a catalyst for private investment in Delaware’s downtowns. With these new reservation awards, $31.6 million in rebates through the program has leveraged $597 million in private investment in designated downtown districts in all three counties.

“This latest round of Downtown Development Districts funding will continue our commitment to revitalizing our downtown business districts and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Gov. Carney. “These investments are a vital tool in our economic development toolbox and will have a long-term impact on these communities.”

Investments eligible for DDD rebate funds include capital investments on rehabilitation, expansion or new construction for commercial, industrial, residential or mixed-use buildings within the district boundaries. Rebates are issued after the project is completed. Qualified applicants include property owners, tenants, for-profit developers, nonprofit organizations, businesses and homeowners.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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