Duncan Center remains on city’s radar

DOVER — Members of Dover City Council continued to discuss in executive session the city’s possible purchase of the Duncan Center before Monday’s night’s council meeting, voting 5-3 at the end of the session in favor of continuing the discussions.

“It’s still being discussed under executive sessions,” Dover City Manager Donna Mitchell said. “We’re working out confidential details and I’ve got some more work to do and then I’ll bring it back (a proposal) to them another time and we’ll see where it goes.”

City of Dover officials have made it known they are growing tired of sinking money into renovations for its nearly 50-year-old City Hall and affiliated offices at 15 Loockerman Plaza.

That’s what prompted the city’s leaders to become involved in a series of closed-door executive sessions and special meetings in May which have been continuing behind closed doors.

They have been discussing the idea of acquiring the much newer and roomier Duncan Center at 500 Loockerman St., which is on the market. There were no details offered regarding the executive session meetings except that the city was discussing “a potential land acquisition.”

Members of Dover’s City Council acknowledged the city has been engaged in preliminary discussions on a contract with the owners of the 58,893-square-foot Duncan Center, which was built in 2003.

However, they didn’t comment on any other specifics of a potential deal, including how much the acquisition would cost the city.

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

Councilman Fred Neil, who represents the 3rd District, said he could see the positives in moving Dover’s city offices to the newer location.

“If all the boxes are checked off regarding the condition of the building and the price is right, buying the Duncan Center would be serendipity,” he said. “This would be a great buy for the taxpayers.”

Mr. Neil said a couple of weeks ago that the potential move to the Duncan Center simply makes sense.

“We could consolidate a number of city services, including those from the worn-out 5 Reed St., into a much newer building and eliminate the millions budgeted this fiscal year for the rehabilitation of that building alone, with more costs to come,” he said. “We could even have a drive-thru for payment of services, saving some taxpayers’ time.

“While the city would not create a building with rental space because we do not want to compete with other commercial properties, the current rented space will significantly cut down the cost to the taxpayers. It will be easier and at a lower cost to make this building both accessible and secure.”

Ralph Taylor, Dover’s newest city councilman, is intrigued by the idea of the Duncan Center.

“I do support the city’s pursuit of the Duncan Center,” he said. “Sustainability of our beautiful city demands diversification of taxpayer dollars.

“To acquire this highly sought after building, well below market value demonstrates the city’s commitment to long-term growth, downtown revitalization and overall fiscal responsibility.”

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

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