Wesley College receives $1M grant to repurpose old Dover library

Wesley College bought the former Dover Public Library building for one dollar from the city of Dover less than a year ago. (Delaware State News file photo/Marc Clery)

DOVER — As Wesley College moves toward the future, it will first breathe new life into a part of the city of Dover’s past.

Wesley College got some assistance toward that goal as it announced Thursday the Longwood Foundation has awarded it with a $1 million grant to start a renovation project of the former Dover Public Library building at 45 South State Street.

Once the renovations are completed, the building will host a state-of-the-art educational facility with a healthcare component.

The predominant user of the space will be the College’s new Master’s of Occupational Therapy (MOT) Program and clinic.

The Wesley Cares Clinic, operated and staffed by the MOT faculty and students will serve uninsured and underinsured children, and eventually adults, from the community on a fee-based sliding scale.

“Wesley’s fully-accredited MOT program has been extremely popular and successful from the start,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Jeffrey K. Gibson. “We recognized the need for this type of program and launched the only MOT program in the state two years ago.

“Since then, the program has exceeded all expectations, has a waiting list for enrollment, and has quickly outgrown the original location on campus.”

In addition to the MOT program, the building will house a large multi-media conference room, educational classrooms, labs, and meeting or study rooms which will be available to all students, faculty, and staff for a myriad of purposes.

The renovations to the old library building are expected to begin in early 2019 and be completed in 2020.

Wesley College bought the former library building for a dollar from the city of Dover less than a year ago.

The transfer of the building, which was arranged by Sen. Colin Bonini (R-Dover) and Rep. Sean Lynn (D-Dover), was contingent upon a commitment of $1.05 million in Community Transportation Funds from both state legislators.

The CTF dollars will be used for transportation purposes, including road repairs and improvements, within the city.

Wesley College President Robert E. Clark II said early in the process of acquiring the building that the transfer simply made sense for both the college and the community.

“I’ve been [in Dover] for about a year and the President’s House is right across the street [from the old library] and I’ve noticed this empty building and my thought was, ‘We’ve got this incredible campus with unbelievable faculty, students and staff and this incredible community … how can we partner to provide those opportunities for our future while also providing that prosperity and growth for the city?’” President Clark said in July 2016. “That was it.”

Dover opened its new $20.8 million library at 35 Loockerman Plaza in September 2012 because it needed more space for resources, books, technology and meeting rooms.

The State Street property has stood vacant ever since.

However, with a little help from the Longwood Foundation, the transformation of the old library is ready to take place.

The Foundation accepts grant requests from non-profit organizations located in and/or benefiting the residents, environment, or culture in the state of Delaware. They invest primarily in the education, health care, environmental, housing, arts, social services, and civic sectors.

“We are so grateful for the steadfast and continued support from the Longwood Foundation,” said President Clark. “Their support and partnership will help inspire others to become involved in our effort to help transform our cities downtown while also providing an educational facility that will serve the health care needs of our community, especially the under insured and uninsured.”

The old library building is 17,980 square feet and sits on 0.8587 of an acre. It was appraised by Dover Consulting Services Inc. on May 12, 2016, to have a value of $1.62 million.

However, city council members had the building and property re-appraised in October 2016 at around $1.1 million, not including costs to bring the building up to code.

President Clark is excited to finally get the wheels moving on the future Wesley clinic. The number of students who will utilize the new facility annually is estimated to be around 500.

“Here’s a building that will allow the educational arm of our community to use to educate our future, that future that will then come back and be the health care professionals, or the teachers, or the coaches,” President Clark said.

“I’m very excited about this because it provides opportunities for our future, our young men and women, but more importantly it provides an opportunity for our community and I truly believe that we are one team, we are one family and we all have one future, and that’s together.”

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

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment