New Dover restaurant among planned projects for grants

Delaware State Housing Authority director Anas Ben Addi introduces Central Delaware Habitat For Humanity executive director Jocyeln Tice, who was one of the successful applicants for grant funding, to speak during Wednesday’s press event at the old Loockerman Exchange restaurant/bar. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

Delaware State Housing Authority director Anas Ben Addi introduces Central Delaware Habitat For Humanity executive director Jocelyn Tice, who was one of the successful applicants for grant funding, to speak during Wednesday’s press event at the old Loockerman Exchange restaurant/bar in Dover. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers )

DOVER — The Priscilla Block Building at the corner of State and Loockerman streets, viewed by many as a major gateway to downtown Dover, may be home to a new restaurant in the near future.

Joe Petrosky, owner of the building, said that’s one of his goals after being selected as one of the recipients of Gov. Jack Markell’s Downtown Development District Grants, designed to leverage private money to spur development in Delaware’s downtowns.

“I hope to find a restaurant tenant to occupy this space on the first floor,” Mr. Petrosky said. “Our plan is to renovate the building. The first phase is to do a tenant renovation on the second floor and provide new office space of 9,000 square feet to a new company. Potentially 35 to 38 jobs will be coming downtown.”

A total of 13 projects in Downtown Development Districts statewide have been selected to receive $5.6 million in funding.

The state’s $5.6 million is expected to leverage more than $114 million in private investments in a variety of new development projects.

Earlier this year Gov. Markell chose Dover, Seaford and Wilmington as the state’s first districts.

Mr. Petrosky will receive $88,918 for his revitalization efforts.

The Priscilla building has had many tenants throughout the years.

It was known as the Loockerman Exchange and closed in 1992. Next it was known as “The Lex,” as it called itself, which opened in December 2006 and closed its doors a year later due to financial hardships.

Then the building was a restaurant and bar known as the Leone’s Loockerman Exchange, but closed in 2012.

“It’s been vacant for a few years,” Mr. Petrosky said. “I think it will be terrific for me personally and for the city of Dover to have another restaurant downtown. It brings people downtown and gives them an opportunity to eat drink and shop at the other stores.”

Gov. Markell continues to be excited about the opportunity.

“The money has been allocated for large projects and we’re very hopeful that more people in Dover and the other two cities will continue to take advantage,” Gov. Markell said.

Also receiving a grant was Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity, which plans to build five affordable homes for low-income individuals on Kirkwood Street in Dover.

It will receive $75,150.

“This funding helps fill a gap for us, said Jocelyn Tice, execute director of CDHFH.

“We are so thankful that residential development was included in the DDD program. Housing, whether it’s owner occupied or rental, it’s key to development in downtown areas.”

Ms. Tice said they’ve started clearing property and plan to break ground on June 8.

CDHFH wants to build two houses in one week. The third house will be an “apostle” building, which will be in partnership with 10 local churches that help fund and build one of the homes.

The fourth house is going to be for a veteran. Habitat currently is working on qualifying a veteran, who will be placed in the home.

“Our fifth home will be our 25th anniversary home,” Ms. Tice said “Habitat has been here for 25 years in Kent County and have housed 40 families. We’re going to recognize that home to celebrate the work that we’ve been doing here in Kent County.”

Mr. Petrosky is confident about the revitalization of downtown moving forward.

“I believe in Dover,” Mr. Petrosky said. “I believed in Dover 20 years ago when I bought this place. It’s been a struggle ever since then. I believe we’re making progress and I believe the grants are really helpful.”

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