Architect says proposed buildings will bring some ‘charm’ to downtown Dover


DOVER — The details become a little bit clearer every time plans move forward for a pair of mixed-use buildings that developers believe will change the look and vibe of downtown Dover.

The city of Dover’s Development Advisory Committee reviewed a site plan for the project, referred to as the Loockerman Way Redevelopment Master Plan: Two Mixed-Use Buildings at 126 W. Loockerman St., at the City Hall conference room on Wednesday morning.

That large-scale building project, along with the replacement of a parking lot on Fulton Street and additions to the Schutte Park Public Works Yard, moved through the site plan review on Wednesday and will now go before the city’s Planning Commission in September.

The Loockerman Street Mixed-Use Building property consists of 1.14 acres and is located on the south side of West Loockerman Street between South Governors Avenue and South State Street — where Loockerman Way Plaza currently sits.

Construction of the buildings will take place in two phases and is scheduled to begin next spring. Both buildings plan to have retail and restaurant space on the first floor and a combined 20 apartments on the upper floors.

“It is a big project in the downtown area,” said Dawn Melson-Williams, the principal planner in the city’s Department of Planning and Inspections. “It is actually something that was actually envisioned as a part of the Dover Transit Center Neighborhood Plan from several years ago.

“The first phase of that plan created the plaza [that is there today] and then an ultimate scenario for that area was buildings to be located there. So this is a step towards that process.”

Bob MacLeish, president of Magnolia’s Lighthouse Construction Inc., which is developing the property registered as Loockerman Plaza LLC, is happy to move on step-to-step through the process.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to moving on to the next steps. We think it is [a good idea]. We’re very proactive and I think it’s very important. I think there are a lot of good things happening [downtown].”

Phase 1 will be the construction of a three-story, 24,960-square-foot (5,860-square-foot retail) building on the east side of the plaza, which will have eight apartment units.

Investors are spending more than $3 million on the development and construction of the three-story building, which will stretch between Loockerman and North streets with parking in the back.

Mr. MacLeish hopes to have Phase 1 completed in 2018.

Once the first building is filled, construction of the building on the west side of the plaza will mark Phase 2 of the project. It will be a four-story, 29,272-square-foot (6,913-square-foot retail) and will include 12 apartments.

In a break from Loockerman Street tradition, the new buildings will not front Loockerman Street, but will face each other with the plaza in the middle.

Jules Dingle, an architect from design firm DIGSAU of Philadelphia, believes the buildings will bring some charm to the downtown area. The apartments will have small protruding balconies looking out over the plaza.

“The ball’s rolling,” Mr. Dingle said. “It’s these first steps for people that are willing to make this kind of investment.”

In other Development Advisory Committee news:

• A site development plan was reviewed to replace an existing 11,600-square-foot gravel parking lot at 623 Fulton St. with a 34-space asphalt parking lot of the same area, with striping, parking bumpers and lighting.

The purpose of the parking lot is to provide parking for adjacent properties. It is located on the north side of Fulton Street east of Ridgely Street.

“There are a number of different businesses in that area, contracting businesses and the like, back there on Fulton and Ridgely,” Ms. Melson-Williams said.

• The committee also reviewed a site development plan to permit construction of a maintenance building, a greenhouse, a salt barn, two truck wash stations, material storage and other improvements at the City Department of Public Works Yard in Schutte Park.

The total area of proposed new buildings is 7,855-square-feet. The property consists of 104.33 acres and the project site, located at the end of Electric Avenue inside Schutte Park, consists of 5.63 acres.

“These [three projects] will go to the September meeting of the Planning Commission,” Ms. Melson-Williams said. “This is just a step in the process of getting them to that point.

“They’ve submitted their initial plans and this is the start of the technical review by each of the agencies that ultimately will have to grant approval of their plan after the Planning Commission acts on it.”

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