South State Street in Dover reopens

DOVER — Everything appeared to be back to normal on Monday for a stretch of South State Street in downtown Dover that had been barricaded and closed for about four weeks after a partial building collapse in the area.

Barriers that had been in place since Oct. 20 until last Friday were removed from the intersection at South State Street and North Street, as well as the one at the northern edge of The Green.
Traffic was moving along smoothly as one of the city’s main arteries was fully operational again.

“We’re glad,” said Taylor Collins, owner of Parke Green Galleries at 331 S. State St. “We couldn’t really tell how things were going because it’s not like we’re selling things like a Wawa or something like that, but we could tell that there weren’t as many people coming in.

“I think a lot of people didn’t want to come down this street because they didn’t know what was going on down here.”
Tom Smith, owner of the adjoining Delaware Store at 325 S. State St., had told Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen that his business wasn’t attracting anybody and that his sales were depleted when the road was barricaded.

So, the mayor and City Manager Donna Mitchell worked with the Delaware Department of Transportation to have the southernmost barricade moved from the intersection of Water Street and South State Street to the northern edge of The Green, bringing potential customers closer to businesses in the affected area.

“At first it was kind of bad because they blocked the traffic off down at Water Street and people just couldn’t see what was going on and they just weren’t sure (if we were open),” Ms. Collins said. “I think a lot of people just avoided coming around this way.

“I think they (handled the construction) pretty well. Tom (Smith) wanted them to do it the next day, obviously, but it’s worked out and we’ve had plenty of people coming through after they opened it back up Friday night.”
Tina Bradbury, economic development and operations manager for the Downtown Dover Partnership, said downtown business owners are relieved that the traffic pattern is back to normal.

“We know that the State Street Road closure was due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control and necessary to ensure the safety of everyone, but we are certainly relieved to see the street reopen to thru traffic,” Ms. Bradbury said.

“We are thankful that the closure was very short compared to other small towns that have dealt with long term and permanent street closure issues, because it is truly a detriment to small businesses.
“Although this has been a set-back for the businesses in this corridor, I am optimistic that they will have a very busy and successful holiday shopping season that is upon us.”

The trouble began when dozens of bricks came crashing down to the sidewalk during a partial structural collapse to a building owned by James P. Hylind at 304 South State Street in downtown Dover’s historic district on Oct. 20.

The building structure has since undergone extensive work and has been stabilized.
It’s expected that the finishing touches to the exterior of the building will take place next spring.

BRS Construction, a historic preservation construction company, is handling the construction and is concentrating on the historic preservation of the building during its work.
City Councilman Fred Neil was pleased to hear that the historic aspect of the building was recognized.

“I have never felt sympathy for any of the dangerous building owners that we have had before us (in the past),” Councilman Neil said.
“I feel sympathy for the owner of this building because the tragedy is that this is historic, this is part of the lifeblood of Dover and to lose this building would be tragic.”

With South State Street now reopened in front of her gallery, Ms. Collins said she will now have to readjust to the environment.
“It’s just so different now with all of the cars going by,” she said. “We really got used to not having the traffic out there.”

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

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