Liberty Court looks for massive facelift

Liberty Court on Walker Road in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Liberty Court on Walker Road in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Some new and exciting items, including plans for the redevelopment of the Liberty Court Apartments, were discussed at the city of Dover’s Development Advisory Committee at the City Hall Conference Room on Wednesday morning.

There was also discussion of Advantech, a local security company, constructing a new office building and light manufacturing facility in the Garrison Oak Technical Park and Panera Bread opening a new location in the Capital Commons near Burlington and Big Lots.

“Remember, this is just the beginning of the planning process for these projects,” said Dawn Melson-Williams, principal planner in the city’s Department of Planning and Inspection.

The next step for the projects will be their consideration by the city of Dover Planning Commission at its meeting on Nov. 21.

The Development Advisory Committee reviewed a site development plan application on Wednesday which is proposing the demolition of the 14 apartment buildings at Liberty Court Apartments and constructing 13 new buildings on the existing foundations, leaving one building not reconstructed.

The redevelopment would reduce the number of dwelling units on site from 108 to 100 apartments. The properties consist of a total of 7.77 acres and are located on the north side of Walker Road opposite the end of Independence Boulevard.

The existing Liberty Court Apartment complex, which was built in two phases, has been in place since the early 1990s.

This will be the first major renovation since then.

The construction of Liberty Court Apartments was a difficult endeavor for Martha S. Harris, who was director of the Delaware State Housing Authority at the time.

It was her vision to transform Carlyle Gardens, once considered a ramshackle mess on Walker Road, into affordable housing.

Back then, there was public outcry from many people living in developments near the complex and their efforts to block the DSHA from pursuing its goal of keeping the property for low-income families was a tough one.

“‘We bought it because [the federal Housing and Urban Development agency] couldn’t guarantee keeping if for low-income families once it was sold,” Ms. Harris told the Delaware State News in 1992. “That would have put 108 families in the street. We had no alternative for them because there were waiting lists for the [public] housing we already had.

“And, it was clear when there were inquiries from private developers who heard HUD was selling it that they were interested in developing it for higher income families because they saw that the land values had increased in that area. There was an enormous amount of opposition,” she said.

Despite all of the turmoil, the ribbon was cut to open Liberty Court Apartments on Aug. 27, 1991.

Now, the apartment complex appears as if it’s about to get a new lease on life.

Advantech’s move

Advantech, a security company currently based at 4092 N. DuPont Highway, has placed an application to permit construction of a 15,945-square-foot office building and manufacturing facility, with outdoor loading areas and other site improvements, at Garrison Oak Technical Park.

The company will relocate to 151 Garrison Oak Drive, Lot No. 13, in the Garrison Oak Technical Park.

Judy Diogo, president of the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce, was pleased that the company has chosen to move to a new location in Dover.

“Advantech has been around for a while here and I’m thrilled to see them decide to grow and stay right here,” Ms. Diogo said. “This will give them a chance to hire new people and build a nice, new facility and I’m absolutely thrilled about that.

“There is always something special when the companies that are here with us get the chance to grow and expand … that just means the world to you. It’s all about local people and local business and I think that’s just phenomenal. We thank them for making this investment.”

Garrison Oak Technical Park also includes Dover Sun Park — which is a solar farm — the Garrison Energy Center and Uzin Utz Manufacturing North America Plant for flooring compounds.

Soup’s on

Dover residents have been clamoring for a Panera Bread restaurant for several years and it now appears as if they are about to have their wish granted.

Panera Bread submitted an application to the DAC for the construction of a 4,986-square-foot restaurant and related site improvements on a 36,848-square-foot pad site at the Capital Commons, located where the old Kmart shopping center once was, as part of an 8.417-acre parcel.

The Panera Bread restaurant, which will be located on the northern side of Capital Commons, will feature a drive-through along with inside and outside dining options.

“It’s pretty exciting. There’s certainly been quite a buzz about getting a Panera Bread restaurant,” Ms. Diogo said. “Of course, you never know until they sign on the dotted line, but it looks as if they are starting to get the whole process started.”

Panera Bread features bakery products, sandwiches and salads.

It definitely created a buzz on the Delaware State News Facebook page.

“This is a dream come true!!,” Desirae Krotzer wrote.

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

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