Dover council halts efforts to acquire Duncan Center

DOVER — Dover City Manager Donna Mitchell had gone around and around trying to make the figures work to move Dover City Hall and the city’s offices to the Duncan Center.

However, members of city council elected to stop the dance on Monday night.

After meeting in executive session just prior to the city council meeting Monday night, council members voted unanimously to terminate discussions on buying or leasing the Duncan Center, a 58,893-square-foot building at 500 Loockerman Street that was built in 2003.

“I move at this time to terminate further consideration of purchasing or leasing the Duncan Center and no longer authorize the city manager to engage in any negotiations on behalf of the city,” City Councilman Tim Slavin said.

Mrs. Mitchell said the two entities just couldn’t come to terms on an agreement. The city had been involved in a series of closed-door executive sessions and special meetings regarding the proposed transaction since May.

“It was council’s decision and it was the terms of the arrangement (that ended negotiations),” the city manager said.

Mrs. Mitchell didn’t disclose any financial details of the negotiations, though the city did receive an appraisal of the six-story office building for $10 million.

“I’d rather not because if (the Duncan Center has) to sell to somebody else I don’t want to unwind the negotiations when they have a buyer,” she said.
The Duncan Center is currently leased to lawyers, corporations, lobbyists, and state and federal government tenants.

It also has an event hall on the top floor called The Outlook at the Duncan Center, which can accommodate up to 350 people.
Mayor Robin Christiansen and members of city council said they will just keep on looking at options for the nearly 50-year-old City Hall and affiliated cramped offices at 15 Loockerman Plaza.

“I think it probably was a prudent decision on the part of mayor and council,” Mayor Christiansen said, on the decision to stop negotiations. “However, that doesn’t relieve us of the responsibility that we have to our citizens to come up with a game plan to address future space needs in the city. I think we need to, in earnest, begin that process.

“We’ve kicked the can down the road too far and we have aged buildings and aged facilities and I think the responsible thing for mayor and council to do now is to come up with a game plan within the next six months and go in that direction and address the needs of the city so that we can better serve our citizens.”

Judging from public listings on a commercial real estate website, the cost of purchasing the Duncan Center on the west end of Loockerman Street would easily cost the city multiple millions of dollars.

That’s why City Council President William “Bill” Hare said it was best to just go back to the drawing board.

“I concur (with the decision),” Council President Hare said. “We made an initial offer, they countered and countered and countered and just couldn’t meet anywhere, so I think it’s in the best interest of the city to just continue. We’ll keep looking around and see what we can come up with.”

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

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