Nine properties set for for revitalization in downtown Dover

DOVER — Nine vacant and boarded up properties in downtown Dover will start the demolition process on Monday, setting the stage for what NCALL, the Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity and city officials hope will be a more promising future in the area.

The properties, all located in the Downtown Development District, were recently purchased by NCALL using Strong Neighborhoods Housing Funds that were awarded by the Delaware State Housing Authority.

Five of the properties facing demolition stand side-by-side on a single block of North Kirkwood Street, another pair of houses are located on South Queen Street and the remaining two are on South Kirkwood Street.

Eventually, the properties, located in areas that have been plagued by high-crime rates, will be redeveloped by the Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity.

“This is an unprecedented move to eliminate blight in our downtown and to create new and attractive ‘for sale’ housing to truly meet our goals for Restoring Central Dover,” said Joe Myer, executive director of NCALL.

In March, NCALL and Central Delaware Habitat received a joint award of $1 million in Strong Neighborhoods Housing Funds to redevelop 20 properties in Central Dover. Most of the homes that were acquired were known nuisance properties, as well as magnets for crime and illegal activity.

The lots will eventually be redeveloped and then sold to qualifying homebuyers. Both NCALL and Habitat are focusing efforts on specific blocks to ensure maximum impact of their investment.

“In a relatively small area, this concentration of demolition and revitalization will have a major impact on the look of the community, the perception of downtown Dover and the pride of those who have already invested in and continue to remain in the neighborhood,” Mr. Myer said.

NCALL and Habitat have partnered together for the past several years to try and change to look and perception of downtown Dover.

Together, they believe the pride of home ownership can quickly turn around what had previously been a blighted area.

Central Delaware Habitat is currently in the process of building a record 14 new homes for families looking for affordable homeownership opportunities this year, including 10 in the downtown Dover area.

Now, it appears as if plenty more wooden boards, nails and construction materials will have to be ordered.

That’s great news to Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen.

“I’m very excited because this is part of the vision that the city has for its future,” Mayor Christiansen said. “This is our future here, and as soon as we tear these houses down and Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity gets to work, then Dover will have a brighter future – and not just for downtown Dover, but for the entire city.

“It’s going to cut down on crime and all the other things that have been going on in these neighborhoods because people have their vested interest here. It’s not just some place to hang their hat, so the neighborhood is going to stabilize and regenerate the heart of the city and the downtown area and that’s what we’ve been aiming for.”

Fred Neil, a Dover City Councilman, has attended “100 percent” of the ribbon cuttings for CDHFH, according to Dan Simpson, the organization’s executive director.

Mr. Neil said he believes the nonprofit group is doing for more Dover’s future than what anybody can possibly imagine.
“What NCALL and the Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity are doing is they are giving people the power of home ownership,” said Mr. Neil. “With that power comes pride, which is something that can be used to turn around these troubled areas and shed a more positive light on downtown Dover.”

Rev. R.J. Chandler Sr., who serves as a volunteer for Habitat, is usually on hand to dedicate each new Habitat home with a prayer.

“This is a city that he has been able to provide such great leadership,” Rev. Chandler said. “Mayor (Robin) Christiansen has had the vision to revitalize the city of Dover.

“With the partnership of the city of Dover and Habitat for Humanity, downtown Dover has been able to revitalize itself.”

Since 1990, Central Delaware Habitat and its volunteers, sponsors and donors have built and/or renovated more than 50 homes and provided housing solutions for more than 200 adults and children.

Now, with 10 more properties in downtown Dover ready to begin the reconstruction process, that number and impact is set to jump even higher headed into 2019.

“This initiative will help transform blighted blocks and revitalize the entire look and fabric of downtown Dover,” said DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi. “We are pleased to help support our partners NCALL and Habitat through the Strong Neighborhoods Housing Fund and look forward to continuing this work in the future.”

Gov. John Carney believes that Dover is on the right path to revitalizing the downtown area.

“This funding will directly help families, cities and towns across Delaware become stronger,” Gov. Carney said. “When we put homes together, they become neighborhoods, safe places enriched by diversity where we collectively share in our cities’ growth and successes.

“When families step into houses, they become homes — residences of refuge, centers of companionship, locations of learning and places of worship. Home is where we celebrate our accomplishments and draw upon strength and support to face our challenges.”

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

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