Highlights from the Downtown Development Districts Program

Enacted by the Delaware General Assembly in 2014, the purposes of the Downtown Development Districts Act (the Act), are to:

  • Spur private capital investments in commercial business districts and other neighborhoods;
  • Stimulate job growth and improve the commercial vitality of districts and neighborhoods;
  • Help build a stable community of long-term residents by improving housing opportunities; and,
  • Assist municipalities in strengthening neighborhoods while harnessing the attraction that vibrant downtowns hold for talented people, innovative small businesses, and residents from all walks of life.

Local governments can take advantage of the program by identifying an area in their downtowns as being desirable for revitalization and then developing a district plan and incentives to support revitalization of the area in accordance with the goals of the Act. The application process for designation as a Downtown Development District (DDD or District) is facilitated by the Office of State Planning Coordination. The applications are then evaluated by the Cabinet Committee on State Planning Issues according to three criteria, as specified in the Act: the need and impact (50%), the quality of the district plan (30%), and the local incentives (20%). The Cabinet Committee then makes recommendations to the Governor who makes the final designation. According to the legislation, the number of districts is limited to 15 at any one time. So far, there are a total of eight designated Districts.

Three DDDs were designated in January 2015, including:

  • City of Dover
  • City of Seaford
  • City of Wilmington

Three DDDs were designated in August 2016, including:

  • Town of Georgetown
  • City of Harrington
  • Town of Laurel
  • City of Milford
  • City of Smyrna

For additional information on the DDD program, including District Plans and Maps for each of the designated Districts, please visit the Office of State Planning website.

Check out this GIS Story Map, which highlights the first year of the DDD program and benefits.

GIS Story Map and http://arcg.is/208FjmV

Benefits of Downtown Development Districts

The Downtown Development Districts Program seeks to revitalize the downtown “Central Business District” in selected city, town, and county areas through the use of economic incentives.

Downtown Development Districts aim to spur capital investments, stimulate job growth and improve commercial vitality, improve housing opportunities, and strengthen neighborhoods. The Delaware Annual Report on Downtown Development Districts is available on the Delaware State Housing Authority’s website.

Visit the Downtown Development Districts section of the toolbox to learn more about how these districts align with complete-community planning principles.

Story Map Development

This story map is produced as part of the Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox with funding support from the Mid-Atlantic Transportation Sustainability Center-Region 3 University Transportation Center.

The story map was developed by Savannah Edwards, Public Administration Fellow, University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration (IPA) under the direction of IPA Policy Scientist Marcia Scott.

Special thanks to Connie Holland (Office of State Planning Coordination, OSPC), David Edgell (OSPC), Miriam Pomilio (OSPC), and Karen Horton (Delaware State Housing Authority) for featured content and assistance.

How to Utilize Story Maps in Your Community

Visit the GIS Story Maps section of the toolbox to learn more about how you can use this tool to promote local government initiatives to support market-ready (re)development in your community.

Contact IPA’s GIS Specialist Nicole Minni, at nminni@udel.edu, to obtain information on contracting her services to develop story maps.


Seaford, Dover, and Wilmington Designated as Downtown Development Districts

According to a January 11, 2015 press release, Governor Markell announced that the cities of Seaford, Dover, and Wilmington have been selected for designation as Downtown Development Districts (DDDs). Per DDD program guidelines, the first three DDDs must include one district in each county.

Markell said, “The Downtown Development District program has generated a high level of enthusiasm and interest, and I was impressed by the overall quality of the applications submitted. In addition to demonstrating significant need, each of the winning applicants submitted thoughtful plans with detailed strategies to strengthen neighborhoods, spur private investment, and improve housing opportunities for residents of all walks of life. On behalf of the state, I look forward to working in partnership with the winning applicants as they make their plans a reality.”

The DDD program was created by legislation proposed by the Governor in 2014. Senate Bill 191 was signed into law by the Governor on June 5, 2014 and was approved for a $7 million allocation by the Delaware General Assembly. The DDD Grant program is modeled in part after a Virginia program that has proven successful in leveraging significant amounts of private investment in under-served areas.

Under the program, designated districts will be entitled to receive significant development incentives and other benefits to spur investment and community development. Investors who make qualified real estate investments in DDDs will be entitled to receive grants of up to 20% of the cost of their investments. The Delaware State Housing Authority, which administers the program, has produced a DDD Grant Program FAQ information sheet for investors who may wish to apply for a grant in a designated district.

A total of nine local governments applied to have a portion of their city, town, or unincorporated area designated as a DDD.  The applications were evaluated in accordance with three main criteria: 1) need and impact, 2) the quality of the district plan submitted by the applicant, and 3) local incentives offered.

On Common Ground

The National Association of Realtors publishes On Common Ground twice yearly to focus on topics of Smart Growth, including enhancing the existing assets of a community, the long-term implications of various development patterns, and the fiscal impacts of these patterns.  The following issues focus on:

  • Sustainable Housing, including the need for affordable housing
  • The New Norm, which describes how the real estate market is evolving toward a new normal marked by growing urbanization, greater sustainability, and more transportation choices
  • Placemaking and Economic Development details the economic importance of place and how “placemaking” is being used as an economic development strategy.  Cities are finding that providing ap­pealing places where people can interact — parks, plazas, main streets, markets — can spur economic prosperity and jobs.
  • Megatrends for the Decade highlights changes in demographics and consumer behavior—characterized as a cultural and demographic shift away from suburban sprawl—that will impact transportation preferences and real estate market demands.