Betting on downtown revitalization: Affordable-priced townhouses set to hit the market

DOVER — Michael Maupin, managing director of MauTiste Investment Group, got a little nudge from Dover’s assistant city manager Kirby Hudson a couple years ago.

That’s when he was asked to perform some of his magic in downtown Dover.

Mr. Hudson was familiar with Mr. Maupin from when he served as city manager in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. Mr. Maupin’s investment group is based there.

So Mr. Hudson knew exactly the kinds of transformations that Mr. Maupin could help bring to a troubled area — especially considering the benefits his group could receive from the state’s Downtown Development District program.

“Mike (Maupin), in my opinion, always delivered a very good, fair product that had a good price point aimed at first-time homebuyers,” Mr. Hudson said. “He doesn’t want to rent his properties. He clearly wants to put his products out to first-time homebuyers, which to me is better than renting.

Michael Maupin of Matise Builders does a final inspection of one the six new townhouses that have been built on West Reed Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“He is helping to establish a real community through the power of home ownership.”

Now, two years after receiving that friendly nudge, MauTiste Investment Group, along with Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity, the Milford Housing Development Corporation and NCALL, is leading the way in revitalizing downtown Dover.

Mr. Maupin said his group will put six new affordable-priced townhouses, located on West Reed Street, on the market within the next couple of weeks.

The two-story, three-bedroom, one-and-half bath townhouses, are located on the lot that was once occupied by the old Square Club. They will be priced at $139,900.

“We’re going to have an open house coming up here in a week or so, but the interest and the feedback we’re getting from the community is tremendous,” Mr. Maupin said. “Just people walking by and thanking us for what we do … and I get a real kick out of that before and after a project.”

Tearing down ‘an eyesore’

Construction of the townhomes was approved by Dover’s City Planning Commission in March 2016.

Ann Marie Townshend, the city’s planning director at the time, said the project was a win-win for the area.

“It will replace that (Square Club) building with new housing that would help target homeownership,” she said. “That’s what made this project really appealing because that building has been an eyesore for a long time.”

Mr. Maupin knew his group had its work cut out for it when it decided to build on the Square Club site.

“We came down and took a look and this was one of the first projects we looked at because the Square Club was an abandoned building at that time,” he said. “I know it had a pretty rich history that pre-dates me, but what I saw was an abandoned building and it had some issues.

Michael Maupin of Matise Builders stands in front on new townhouses that have been built on West Reed Street in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We agreed to buy the property from the owners and demolish it and came up with a plan to build these six townhomes.”

He added, “It was a $60,000 investment to buy it and then we had to demo the building which had asbestos and those kinds of issues. So we had to get the right outfit to come in and take a look at how to do the asbestos remediation.”

The entire process took about a year-and-a-half to complete.

Working to restore Dover

Mr. Maupin said he is working alongside Habitat for Humanity, Milford Housing and NCALL because they help to provide a framework to which private investors can connect.

“The fix is private investment dollars in the community,” he said. “If you come into a community and all you see is non-profits building, that’s telling you something’s not working.

“I looked at what Habitat’s doing right up the block (from Reed Street) and what we like to do is connect to that and you get a better bang for the buck, more impact for the community and for the city.”

He noted that three years ago the percentage of rental occupies in Dover was around 80 percent. That number is slowly starting to decline.

“This whole area is really starting to do well and we’re going to do more,” Mr. Maupin said. “We’ve got close to one million-and-a-half dollars committed in terms of our investment in Dover.

“Our next project is going to be three single-family homes right across the Eden Hill Medical Center on West North Street. That’s going to begin later in the month. So that’s nine houses that we’re building.”

Home ownership a key to success

Mr. Hudson said it’s important to attract new homeowners to the downtown area.

“What I saw going on (in Dover) when I first came on board was that we had an overabundance of a lot of rentals and some of these rentals were being held by people, many landlords, who weren’t the most responsible individuals,” said Mr. Hudson. “That’s why I believed this would be a perfect place for MauTiste to come in.

“They could get some of these properties and turn them into affordable new homes. That’s pretty much the driving force for me. Mike (Maupin) always came across to me as a very honest guy. I know that he believes in and cares about his products.”

The construction work on the West Reed Street townhouses was conducted by James Burgess, builder of Elite Homes.

Mr. Maupin said his project wouldn’t be a success had it not been for others, such as Habitat and the Milford Housing Authority.

“My belief is in order to make an impact, you have to build multiple houses in a stretch, on a block. Because I don’t care if it’s your 10th house or your first house, if you’re going to buy a house you don’t want to buy near an abandoned building. So the whole block needs to look like it’s being revitalized,” he said.
“That’s important to our business model.”

The other important thing, he said, was seeing the smiles on families when they pick up the keys to their new homes.

“Everyone wants more home ownership for obvious reasons — a better tax base which helps the city, to people taking pride in their homes and upkeep and these types of things,” Mr. Maupin said. “It also helps individuals from a pride perspective. So much wealth is created from home ownership, but it’s got to be right.”

Mr. Maupin believes his group got it right in Dover.

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