Revitalizing Delaware's Downtowns: The Success and Possibility of the Downtown Development Districts Act in Wilmington, DE

Revitalizing Delaware's Downtowns: The Success and Possibility of the Downtown Development Districts Act in Wilmington, DE Main Photo

4 Jun 2024


In 2014, the Delaware General Assembly enacted the Downtown Development Districts Act (DDD Act), a statewide incentive program to rejuvenate the state's struggling downtown areas. The strategic initiative aimed to attract private capital, stimulate job growth, improve housing opportunities, and enhance commercial vitality within designated districts. Since then, Delaware's downtown areas have been undergoing a remarkable transformation, with the DDD spurring revitalization across the state. By leveraging the appeal of dynamic downtowns, the Act aims to strengthen neighborhoods and attract diverse residents and businesses.

The Act's primary incentive is the DDD Rebate, administered by the Delaware State Housing Authority (DSHA). This rebate awards up to 20 percent of the hard costs associated with construction or redevelopment within designated Downtown Development Districts. Investors, ranging from property owners and tenants to for-profit developers, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and homeowners, are eligible for this rebate, making it an attractive incentive for a wide range of stakeholders.

Examples of Success 

Downtown Delaware 4th Market

One of the key achievements of the DDD Act has been its ability to facilitate a diverse range of projects, from the rehabilitation of single-family homes to the construction of 24-story buildings. This diversity has played a crucial role in revitalizing downtowns, as it caters to various needs and preferences, creating a vibrant and dynamic environment.

The Act has not only focused on new construction but has also prioritized the adaptive reuse of vacant buildings and the preservation of significant historic structures. This approach has breathed new life into once-neglected areas, while maintaining the unique character and charm of Delaware's downtowns. Since its inception, the DDD program has facilitated over 80 projects, generating approximately $450 million in private investment in Wilmington alone. This influx of investment has transformed Wilmington’s central Market Street corridor with new apartments, restaurants, and small businesses. Notable projects showcasing the diversity and creativity of the investments facilitated by the DDD Act include:

  • Lazarus Educational Services: Located in Wilmington's Eastside Neighborhood, this organization used DDD funds to rehabilitate a blighted building, establishing a headquarters that offers business training and financial services for entrepreneurs.
  • The Mill Space: A high-end co-working space in the historic Nemours Building, The Mill Space used DDD incentives to convert outdated office space into a vibrant community workspace for startups, remote workers, and established businesses.
  • The Warner: This mixed-use building, converted from an old theater, was revitalized by minority-owned contractors, showcasing the diverse potential of the DDD incentives.
  • Office-to-Hotel and Office-to-Residential Conversions: The DDD program facilitated multiple conversions of vacant office buildings into hotels and residential units. This was particularly significant in Wilmington, where office vacancies were a persistent issue even before the pandemic.
  • 1313 N. Market: One of Wilmington’s largest office buildings, 1313 N. Market, utilized DDD funds to revamp some of its underutilized space, creating The Chancery Market Food Hall and an independent theater, The Screening Room at 1313.

Beyond the economic benefits, the DDD Act has also contributed to building stable communities of long-term residents by improving housing opportunities. Non-profit organizations like Habitat for Humanity have utilized the program to construct sustainable homeownership units, supporting the goals of several Districts to increase homeownership rates.

Statewide, the DDD program has marked significant milestones in revitalizing distressed downtowns. By 2023, the initiative had completed 298 small and 64 large projects, attracting $527 million in private investment. An additional 33 large projects have been underway as of 2023, highlighting the program’s ongoing appeal.

Continued Excitement for the Future of Delaware’s Downtowns

Downtown Delaware

As the DDD Act continues to gain momentum, optimism prevails for the future of Delaware's downtowns and the opportunities they offer. The program's success has not only transformed physical spaces but has also fostered a sense of pride and community among residents, businesses, and investors.

With ongoing projects, strong demand for funding, and a commitment to education and outreach, the Downtown Development Districts Act of 2014 continues to be a driving force behind the revitalization of Delaware's downtowns, showcasing the power of public-private partnerships and community-driven development.

To find out more about how the Downtown Development Districts Act can benefit your initiative, contact the Wilmington Office of Economic Development. Visit to find out more, or contact us at (302) 576-2120.