Talks ongoing on future of defunct civic center site

DOVER — City officials still have hopes of putting the former property of the failed Delaware Civic Center project to good use.

In August, during a Legislative, Finance and Administration meeting committee members reviewed a request from Delaware State University regarding the transfer of property from the Delaware Civic Center Corp.

The committee recommended continued conversation and information from the university and Dover’s city manager in regard to how the project could economically benefit both the city and DSU.

The Delaware Civic Center project stalled a half dozen years ago and never got beyond the erection of a sign on Crawford Carroll Avenue. (Delaware State News/K.I. White)

The Delaware Civic Center project stalled a half dozen years ago and never got beyond the erection of a sign on Crawford Carroll Avenue. (Delaware State News/K.I. White)

“There haven’t been any updates since then,” City Manager Scott Koenig said. “We’ve had a few talks with DSU. Hopefully, within the next 30 to 60 days we’ll start to hear more information regarding the center.”

DSU made its pitch in 2014. The potential $57.5 million project would be multi-functional facility that would provide additional educational space for the sports education and health and public policy disciplines.

The project team and steering committee recommended that land at the corner of Crawford Carroll Avenue and West Rustic Lane (next to Sam’s Club) be used for the site.

In the mid-2000s the land was the site for the proposed Delaware Civic Center project. Hopes were high; the state allocated, without issuing bonds, a total of $6 million during fiscal years 2006, 2007 and 2008 ($2 million a year). DSU also pledged $6 million toward its construction. But after a lack of private interest and an economic downturn, the state decided the money earmarked for the civic center could be put to other uses.

Scott Koenig

Scott Koenig

Mr. Koenig said when the DSU request was received he thought it probably would be good to transfer the property. However, since that time, concerns have come up regarding the potential drop in state revenues, the need for the city to look at locations for renewable energy and some of the other things going on in local and state governments.

“Some work has been done to see if there is enough room to lay out a solar field that would be large enough to give the city a good return on the investment,” Mr. Koenig said.

The site used to be a former landfill; the city only owns the back end of the property.

Mr. Koenig said that the four or five acres along the access road are owned by the Civic Center Corp. He explained that once the city decides how much of the property it may want, it would be incumbent on DSU to come forward with a proposal to City Council.

“There are some specific areas that city is interested in,” Mr. Koenig said. “It’s not land that you want to put something expensive on, due to it being a landfill.

“It’s going to be subjective to different settlements for many years to come, but we’re going to continue to evaluate the property moving forward.”

Mr. Koenig believes there is potential for the city and DSU to bring a proposal back to council that is mutually beneficial from a number of different standpoints.

“It’s a work in progress,” Mr. Koenig said. “The city isn’t in a big hurry to get it done. DSU doesn’t have the funding right now for it, but we’re still in talks with them to figure out everything.

“I still believe a deal could be made that would be mutually beneficial to the city and DSU.”

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