Delaware Towns Battle It out for Millions in Development Money - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Delaware Towns Battle It out for Millions in Development Money

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Delaware towns are battling it out for access to a portion of $6.5 million to improve their downtown areas.

Gov. Jack Markell announced the Downtown Development District program in January. Now the deadline for towns to apply is this week.

The state will pick one town from each county to get money. And a lot of towns want it.

In Kent County, as an example, both Milford and Dover City Councils are looking at their applications at meetings Monday night. And Smyrna did the same thing at its meeting last week. Their goals are to convince the state to pick them over the other towns.

With a new distillery, a flourishing project pop up store, downtown Smyrna has seen positive change in the past year. Town Manager David Hugg wants that Downtown Development District money.

"In terms of our downtown - and we've got two or three buildings that are in stages of redevelopment and renovation - a couple million dollars would make a big difference," Hugg said.

Hugg says the money would focus on Smyrna's central business district, centered around Main Street.

Dover would put the money into its central business district around Loockerman Street. But Ann Marie Townshend, the city's planning director says the plan extends into many other parts of the downtown, including some residential areas.

"We have a high concentration of areas where we've had to demolish buildings, vacant buildings, a very rental rate. Over 84 percent of the occupied units are rental," she said.

The program's money comes to the winners in the form of incentives. Private investors go ahead with projects and get significant cash back from the state plus county and city incentives, too.

"The various incentives that in some cases can add up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars really does start to put a dent in things," said Townshend.

Both Townshend and Hugg believe their towns are the places for those dents.

"The need is here, and this is the state capital," she said.

"I mean, it sounds a little trite but we're ready, and we're serious," he said.

There are other towns in Kent and across Sussex Counties vying for the money. WBOC asked the state to provide a list. Officials would not release it saying the application process is not over yet.

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