Gov. Jack Markell announced a plan on Wednesday to help revitalize cities and towns across Delaware.

More than a dozen state lawmakers have already agreed to sponsor legislation establishing a framework for “Downtown Development Districts” in the state’s neediest neighborhoods.  

State leaders hope that the revitalization projects will encourage residents and businesses to move back into urban areas, thereby creating both jobs and quality-of-life opportunities.

“Our cities have faced significant challenges in recent years,” Markell said. “Urban areas across the country have undergone real changes as a result of economic movement that was decades in the making, whether it was globalization, automation, [or] new technologies that sometimes decimated industries that offered very good and plentiful jobs, particularly in manufacturing.”

$25,000 initial investment

Qualifying districts would be eligible for state grants, and some individual properties would qualify for Historic Preservation Tax Credits from the state.

“These areas will qualify for development incentives and a host of other benefits that will make it more affordable to pursue residential, commercial, industrial and mix use development,” Markell said.

Developers would need to invest at least $25,000 in a project before being eligible for grant funding. Once the initial investment is made, the state would then provide up to 20 percent of the developer's costs in grant aid. 

The state’s Cabinet Committee on State Planning would be responsible for evaluating applications.

To begin the initiative, Markell explained that a development district must be established in each of Delaware’s three counties. Once this goal is achieved, the state will accept as many as 15 proposals at a time from any municipality.

“We will require cities and towns to provide a blueprint of how and where they want the development to occur, so we can evaluate the plans that make the most sense for the residents and taxpayers," Markell said.