OPINION

Attard: Capital City 2030 needs to be followed

Posted

Nate Attard is the Preservation Committee chair of The Friends of Old Dover.

In October 2023, I wrote an Opinion describing many of the positive changes proposed by the downtown Dover master plan, named “Capital City 2030” (baytobaynews.com/stories/attard-zoning-updates-are-important-to-capital-city-2030,119182). The plan outlined development sites, emphasized restoration and rehabilitation of historical structures, and looked to fill in currently vacant sites where historic buildings had stood to bring new residents downtown.

My support for this plan, as well as that of The Friends of Old Dover and many other preservation-minded people, is quickly eroding, however, because of the recent decision of its implementing agency, the Downtown Dover Partnership, to seek demolition of the historical buildings at 148-150 S. Bradford St., an action not included in the plan. These buildings, generally in good condition, are remembered as the site of successful businesses that could be restored with much less effort than many of Dover’s historical buildings.

Citizens were made aware when the proposal for demolition of the buildings was presented to the Historic District Commission on May 16. This action was denied by the commission.

The Downtown Dover Partnership then made the decision to hold a public engagement session on this subject June 3. Three options were presented: a tall garage of seven stories with the buildings retained and either demolition or relocation of the buildings for a shorter garage of four stories.

On Monday, the partnership is asking the Planning Commission to overturn the decision of the Historic District Commission, based on feedback received June 3, and allow demolition of 148-150 S. Bradford St.

I am asking the Planning Commission to uphold the Historic District Commission’s decision to deny demolition for the following reasons:

  • The city of Dover historic district guidelines state that “the city must be convinced that all possible means of saving a building must have been exhausted” to consider demolition, and they have not. Either the proposed taller garage or a phased approach to garage construction, where a garage engineered to be expandable (made taller when demand for parking is met), could retain the houses.
  • By retaining the buildings, the residential character of South Bradford Street will not be further eroded. Dover does not need another “parking street” like North Street, with high-speed traffic and little to interest pedestrians; it needs to seek every opportunity to keep existing buildings that are in good condition and can be redeveloped by small-scale local developers, using incentives like the state’s Downtown Development District program, federal historic preservation tax credits and others.
  • The master plan calls for South Bradford Street to be the pedestrian link between Delaware State University Downtown and Loockerman Street. A parking lot street is not entertaining to walk down and will not bring pedestrians downtown. We need buildings with porches, storefronts, decorated windows, porch cats, flower gardens and other things that are mildly entertaining to look at and that make walking quick and fun from the residential areas into the business district. These elements exist or could exist at 148-150 S. Bradford. A parking garage wall, as proposed in the four-story garage, is not this. Blank facades and parking facilities make walking a drudgery and should be avoided on South Bradford.

I ask anyone interested in this topic to please attend the Planning Commission meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Opportunities for virtual attendance are also available at cityofdover.com/events/86269.

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at civiltalk@iniusa.org.

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