Governor’s Weekly Message: Growing the Economy by Strengthening Our Downtowns

Wilmington, – In his weekly message, filmed at Delaware College of Art and Design, Governor Markell discusses efforts to revitalize downtowns and surrounding neighborhoods in Delaware’s neediest areas through the Downtown Development District program. The first three designated districts were announced earlier this week.

More Americans are seeking dynamic and exciting urban environments and our ability to continue to create opportunities for Delawareans will depend, in large part, on whether we meet these demands,” said Governor Markell. “We remain focused on ways to give our cities the best chance to thrive and see Downtown Development Districts as a key part of the solution. With the support of leadership in each of these districts, along the residents, businesses, and non-profit communities who live and work there, we can generate a surge of cultural, real estate, and business activity to jumpstart progress in areas that have long been overlooked, and that will keep Delaware moving forward.”

Every week, the Governor’s office releases a new Weekly Message in video, audio, and transcript form. The message is available on:

 YouTube: http://youtu.be/XAcWtfLQoSg
Delaware.Gov: http://governor.delaware.gov/podcast_video.shtml
By email: Please contact our press team to subscribe to our press list
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/governormarkell
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Transcript of Governor Markell’s Weekly Message:  Growing the Economy by Strengthening Our Downtowns

 


Governor Markell Signs Bill to Revitalize Urban Areas, Spur Economic Development

Law creates plan proposed in State of the State to designate Downtown Development Districts

 Dover, DE – Joined by community leaders, legislators, and local officials from all 3 counties, Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 191 today to establish economic development incentives that promote revitalization of Delaware’s downtowns.

First proposed in the Governor’s State of the State address in January, SB 191 allows for the creation of Downtown Development Districts – a small number of areas in cities in towns that would qualify for significant development incentives and other state benefits. Senators Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), and Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West), as well as Representatives Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington), and Darryl Scott (D-Dover) were the prime sponsors of the bill, which passed unanimously in the General Assembly after receiving support from various municipalities and community organizations.

“Across the country, people from all walks of life are re-discovering our cities and towns as places where they want to live, work, start a business, and raise a family,” said Governor Markell. “This urban resurgence is beginning to happen in Delaware as well—but it could use a ‘shot in the arm.’ It is my hope that this innovative new program to revitalize our downtowns will bring much-needed energy and resources to areas of our state that have been overlooked for too long.”

Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 191 to establish economic development incentives that promote revitalization of Delaware’s downtowns.
Governor Markell signed Senate Bill 191 to establish economic development incentives that promote revitalization of Delaware’s downtowns.

Through the new program, localities will be able to apply to have a portion of their city, town, or unincorporated area designated as a Downtown Development District (DDD).  Applications will be evaluated using three main criteria: (1) need; (2) the quality of the development plan submitted by the applicant; and (3) local incentives offered. Following the initial round of applications, the Governor will select at least 1 but no more than 3 Districts. Under the program, the first 3 Districts must include 1 District in each county. Up to 15 total districts will be able to qualify at one time.

Subject to funding, investors in the selected Districts would be entitled to grants of up 20 percent of their construction costs. Grants will be available for all types of projects (residential, commercial, and mixed-use), and may be used by for-profit builders and investors, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and homeowners. The grants will be administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA).

In addition to the above grants, state agencies will provide additional incentives for qualified activity within Districts. For example, DSHA will offer additional funding to renovate vacant and abandoned houses in DDDs, and several state agencies (including DelDOT) will prioritize work in Districts. In addition, under SB 292, a percentage of the state’s existing Historic Preservation Tax Credits will be designated to fund qualifying projects in DDDs, recognizing that this tax credit has been a powerful tool in not only preserving historic structures but also in revitalizing communities.

Further details about Downtown Development Districts are explained in this fact sheet. Additional information about the DDD application process, as well as information about specific program benefits and rules, will be available in the weeks to come.

 Comments from Legislation’s Sponsors:

“Strong downtowns have the potential to be tremendous catalysts for developing stronger cities across-the-board, but to achieve that, downtowns have to overcome the challenges of aging buildings and infrastructure,” said Sen. Henry, the bill’s lead sponsor. “This new law will help marshal the kinds of resources we need to meet those challenges and will encourage the all-important investment and support from the private sector that is needed to make this succeed.”

“We are focused on reenergizing downtown Dover and we’ve made great progress,” said Sen. Bushweller. “The program this bill creates provides an additional push and will pay big dividends for communities up and down the state.”

“Our downtowns are the hearts of our communities; they’re what we see in our minds when we think about Wilmington, Dover or Seaford,” said Rep. Helene Keeley. “This new law will make sure these essential parts of our cities and towns are vibrant centers of growth we can be proud of.”

“There is a mix of ‘mom and pop’ stores that have been in the neighborhood for years and new businesses popping up that have created a strong energy in the community,” said Rep. Stephanie T. Bolden. “There is definitely potential for growth, and we need to maximize on the opportunity to do so.”

“A downtown like Dover’s draws as much from its rich past as it does from its plans for the future, and our history compliments and enriches what we want to see come next,” said Rep. Scott. “This initiative is about infusing these historic neighborhoods with fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm.”


Governor’s Weekly Message Transcript: Revitalizing Downtown Areas in Delaware Cities

“The opportunities available to Delawareans depend in large part upon whether our cities are safe and vibrant. Not only does our economic future depend on it, but when neighborhoods are cleared of vacant houses and more people live and work in our cities, they are safer for everyone. With cities across the country experiencing a surge of growth, we must take this opportunity to renovate abandoned property, attract new residents and businesses, and reinvigorate our downtowns.

In Delaware, we’ve seen the potential for revitalization: The Queen Theater in Wilmington lay dormant as a cultural center for half a century before it was brought back to life. Here in Dover at the Schwartz Center for the Arts there is a similar story of renewal. And we have great assets in Sussex County, like the beautiful main street in Bridgeville with century-old mansions. But given the financial challenges facing our cities and towns, we need to work together to meet our potential.

That’s why I visited all of these towns this week – to unveil a proposal to create Downtown Development Districts in every county. In these designated areas it will be more affordable to pursue residential, commercial, and industrial development. We will focus historic preservation tax credits there and other state agencies will prioritize projects for the selected districts.

Downtown Development Districts will signify to residents, developers, investors, and others that we are committed to our downtowns’ future. As noted author Jane Jacobs wrote: “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” Working together, we will ensure our downtowns provide something for everybody who is touched by them and we’ll keep Delaware moving forward.”

Every week, the Governor’s office releases a new Weekly Message in video, audio, and transcript form. The message is available on:

YouTube: http://youtu.be/rI2IkFCii7A
Delaware.Gov:  http://governor.delaware.gov/podcast_video.shtml
By email: Please contact our press team to subscribe to our press list
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/governormarkell
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/governormarkell


Governor Markell Proposes Downtown Development Districts

Announces plan to help revitalize urban areas

Wilmington, DE – Joined by community leaders, legislators, and local officials at events in New Castle, Kent, and Sussex Counties today, Governor Markell unveiled his proposal for economic development incentives and other benefits that would help revitalize downtown areas in Delaware’s cities. The effort was previewed in Markell’s State of the State address.

“Our success as a state and the opportunities available to Delawareans depends in large part upon whether our cities are safe and vibrant,” said Markell, who outlined the plan at The Queen in Wilmington, the Schwartz Center in Dover, and the Bridgeville Fire Hall. “With the determination of so many Delaware community leaders, committed investors, talented businesspeople, and individuals from all walks of life, we have the opportunity to generate a surge of cultural, real estate, and business activity that could jumpstart underdeveloped areas of our cities. These individuals just need a little help to make their visions for our downtowns a reality. And we know how states can provide effective assistance. It’s time to act.”

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Governor Markell unveiled his proposal for economic development incentives and other benefits that would help revitalize downtown areas in Delaware’s cities.

Under the plan, municipalities would apply to have a portion of their city or town designated as Downtown Development Districts. Investors in the selected districts would be entitled to grants administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority. These can be valued at up to 20 percent of their construction costs, while state agencies, including DelDOT, would prioritize work in these areas and offer additional incentives. Following the initial round of applications, the Governor will designate 1 – 3 districts, but up to 15 total districts will be able to qualify at one time based on available funding. The first 3 districts must span all three counties.

Legislation to create the selection process and incentives for these districts will be sponsored by Senators Brian Bushweller (D-Dover), Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East), and Robert Marshall (D-Wilmington West), as well as Representatives Stephanie Bolden (D-Wilmington), Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South), and Darryl Scott (D-Dover).

Details are explained in this fact sheet.

Markell noted that Delaware has a chance to take advantage of a trend that has seen increasing growth rates in attractive downtowns. The latest census found that, from 2000 – 2010, downtowns in America’s major metropolitan areas experienced double-digit growth at a rate that was twice that of their cities’ overall growth. And last year, for the first time since the 1920s, America’s biggest cities grew at a faster rate than their suburbs.

Re-orienting state growth strategies to incentivize urban living is especially important in a small state. A 2013 report on State Planning Issues found that “the cost of providing [state government] services is greatly affected by our pattern of land use.  In general, the more spread out we are, the more costly it is for taxpayers.”

A similar initiative in Virginia, used as a model by Markell, has proven successful in leveraging significant amounts of private funding.

Comments from Legislation’s Sponsors:

“Just look at the Riverfront and the area here at the Queen Theater,” said Sen. Henry, the bill’s lead sponsor, during an event announcing the measure in Wilmington.  “This whole area of downtown is finding its legs because everyone has played a role and is invested in its success. But, go a few blocks from this gem, and you can find areas where a lack of investment and empowerment has downtown neighborhoods hanging on by a thread. That cannot stand and we all hope this bill helps change that.”

“Here in Dover, we’ve been working hard to reenergize our downtown and the Downtown Dover Partnership’s done a lot to get us on that road,” said Sen. Bushweller. “I think this approach, that brings all the key public and private players together and that forces downtown groups to develop a focused approach to improving city centers, will pay big dividends for communities up and down the state.”

“As the revitalization projects we’re talking about move forward, they’ll put people to work restoring or building new structures – it can help our blue collar workers find new jobs rebuilding their communities,” said Sen. Marshall. “I’m proud to be a part of an effort that can do so much for Delaware and Delawareans.”

“Our downtowns are the hearts of our communities; they’re what we see in our minds when we think about Wilmington or Dover or Newark,” said Rep. Keeley. “We need to make sure these essential parts of our cities and towns are vibrant centers of growth we can be proud of.”

“There is a mix of ‘mom and pop’ stores that have been in the neighborhood for years and new businesses popping up that have created a strong energy in the community,” said Rep. Bolden. “There is definitely potential for growth, and we need to maximize on the opportunity to do so.”

“A downtown like Dover’s draws as much from its rich past as it does from its plans for the future, and our history compliments and enriches what we want to see come next,” said Rep. Scott. “This initiative is about infusing these historic neighborhoods with fresh ideas and renewed enthusiasm.”

Video from the event

Photos from the event