Georgetown laundromat celebrates opening, thanks to downtown development program

Gov. John Carney gives a thumbs-up during the Downtown Development District check presentation to Enrique and Veronica Nunez, owners of Splash Laundromat in Georgetown. From left are Mr. Nunez, Ms. Nunez, state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, Georgetown Mayor Bill West, Delaware State Housing Authority Director Anas Ben Addi, state Rep. Ruth Briggs King and Gov. Carney. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — Mother Nature’s drizzly splash Friday did not dampen the celebration in the Kimmeytown section of Georgetown.

Numerous state and local officials joined Enrique and Veronica Nunez for the grand opening/ribbon-cutting of their Splash Laundromat — a festive event punctuated by the presentation of a substantial rebate check to the couple as large-scale project participants in Delaware’s Downtown Development District program.

“We are so thankful to so many of you who have been with us every step of the way, so that today can be possible. First and foremost, thanks to God,” said Ms. Nunez. “I would like to close today with a quote: ‘Dream it. Believe it — and build it.”

The Nunez couple received a Downtown Development District rebate check totaling $457,997.

Total cost was nearly $2.7 million for their project. It includes a modern 50-machine laundromat, a hair salon and a coffee shop/snack bar on the first floor, as well as three apartments on the second floor.

Anas Ben Addi, Delaware State Housing Authority director, noted that the Downtown Development District program was “never designed to be the financing tool, the driving tool. It was the sweetener.”

Gov. John Carney added his congratulations to the couple.

“I am honored to celebrate the grand opening of Splash Laundromat and present a DDD rebate check to Enrique and Veronica Nunez for their hard work to help revitalize Georgetown’s downtown area,” he said. “This project demonstrates how the DDD program can be used as a valuable resource during this time for small businesses looking to expand, entrepreneurs opening new businesses and homeowners completing renovation projects in our state’s downtowns.”

Parents of three children, the Nunezes applied for and received a DDD reservation in fall 2017 in support of the project, located in a heavily Hispanic section of Georgetown.

Splash Laundromat’s self-serve and drop-off laundry service opened in late July. The other amenities are slated to open next week, Mr. Nunez said.

“Enrique and Veronica: Thank you for this beautiful facility. I can’t say enough about it,” said state Sen. Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown. “We’re seeing progress. We’re actually seeing things happen in our town despite of what was going on around us. We are seeing something good happen. There are some things that we do great in state government, and there are some things that we don’t do so great in state government. But I think this is one of the prime examples of one of the things that we are doing very, very well.”

Georgetown Mayor Bill West called it “an important day for the town of Georgetown. It is a fantastic place.”

The business has 10 employees.

“That’s 10 people working,” said Mayor West, noting that Ms. Nunez’s sister is a member of the Georgetown Police Department. “So it is a family affair of being involved in this community and being part of Georgetown. And that does my heart good. We work together. We play together, and we become a community of one.”

Sen. Pettyjohn agreed.

“There is a lot of things that have been done in this area of Georgetown,” he said. “For this area of town to be designated as a Downtown Development District was a great move on the part of the town, because there has been so much focus put on Kimmeytown. This is a wonderful and very historic area.”

State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said the building is a dream come to life.

“What a celebration for you and your family, because you are creating a legacy here. This building is symbolic because it is bricks and mortar,” she said. “It is an investment in a business that is meant to last for a long, long time. I am suspecting that there was a vision or a dream that you worked very hard to turn into a reality, and that came with some blood, sweat and tears along the way.”

The Nunez couple purchased the property back in September 2015. At that time, the structure was vacant. Since then, they renovated and expanded the building.

“We could not have completed this project without the support of the DDD program.” Mr. Nunez said. “This program gave us the financial security of knowing we would receive a portion of our total development cost back as a rebate. For a small business owner, this security is crucial, especially given the current economic situation, and we are grateful to the DSHA and the state of Delaware for offering business owners like us the opportunity to participate in the DDD program.”

Rep. Briggs King said she hopes others make similar investments in the community.

“Hopefully, your success today will encourage others to take that kind of step and hard work that comes with that and to make that investment that lasts just not today but tomorrow and beyond,” she said.

This is the third business venture for the Nunez family. They own another laundromat on Race Street in Georgetown and one in Milford.

Gov. Carney made note that the DDD program, which started under then-Gov. Jack Markell in 2014, offers so many benefits.

“It leverages all of that private investment. It revitalizes an area and makes it better and a higher use. It makes communities stronger,” Gov. Carney said. “And I think importantly, as we see today, it really supports kind of the American dream, allowing people to start their own business, take the risk, get a business up and running.”

Mayor West said town of Georgetown incentives for the Nunez project are $9,872, plus 10 years of property tax phase-in.

“It gives them a break. It gives them a chance to catch up on some of their finances they have spent,” said Mayor West. “If you take that hard-earned money and you take a risk of opening a business, you need that extra help, that extra push that shows that somebody is behind you.”

Veronica Nunez takes her turn at the podium Friday during the grand opening of Splash Laundromat in Georgetown, a business venture she and husband, Enrique, made possible with support from the Downtown Development District program. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Next round of funding available
During Friday’s event, Mr. Addi also announced that the latest round of funding is now available for large-project rebate reservations through the DDD program. DSHA is accepting applications from investors and business owners through Jan. 8.

“Community development is central to DSHA’s mission, and we are pleased to be able to offer this funding to support continued economic growth in our downtowns,” said Mr. Addi. “We hope Enrique and Veronica Nunez’s story will inspire other business owners and investors to take advantage of the DDD program and apply for an award for their own large or small projects in one of the state’s 12 designated districts.”

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 Delaware’s cities and towns.
• Help build a stable community of long-term residents in downtowns and other neighborhoods.

Those who make qualified real-property investments in one of 12 designated districts can apply for a rebate of up to 20% of eligible costs. The designated districts are Clayton, Delaware City, Dover, Georgetown, Harrington, Laurel, Middletown, Milford, the city of New Castle, Seaford, Smyrna and Wilmington.

Since the first reservation awards in April 2015, the DDD program has been a catalyst for private investment in Delaware’s downtowns, with $36 million in rebates through the program leveraging $630 million in private investment in designated downtown districts in all three counties.

Under the latest round of funding, investors can apply for a DDD reservation award for large property construction or redevelopment project investments of more than $350,000.

Applications for small projects — an investment between $25,000 and $350,000 — are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the year based on available funding.

During this funding round, $10 million is available for large projects with $2 million available for small projects, Mr. Addi said.

Projects 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.