Downtown Delaware

Downtown Delaware is a resource center within the Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) that works with communities statewide to address revitalization issues.  Particular emphasis is placed on business development, vacancy reduction, and proactive planning for selection and placement of retail goods and services in commercial business districts within Delaware.

Following after the National Trust Main Street model, additional areas of focus beyond business development include organization of local entities to enact revitalization strategies; a design component to enhance the aesthetic aspects of the community; and promotion of the community and its businesses throug events.  Preservation of the historic buildings and landscape and cultural assets of each business district is integral to the Main Street approach.

The resource center's mission is to provide Delaware's historic downtowns, communities, and small businesses with tools to revitalize their commercial districts, increase entrepreneurism and innovation, and enhance quality of place.

Downtown Delaware works with staff and volunteers of seven designated Delaware Main Street towns, as well as with representatives of Delaware Commercial District Affiliate communities statewide, by providing technical assistance, one-on-one and group training, and initiatives to support the center's mission.  Recipients of the services include downtown professionals, preservationists, representatives of municipalites, property owners, and small business owners, including women and minority business owners, and others invested in these local communities.

Recently, the DEDO was awarded a USDA Rural Community Development Initiative (RCDI) grant in the amount of $200,000 that is allowing Downtown Delaware to expand services to nine rural towns in Kent and Sussex Counties though 2015. These "USDA Recipient Towns" are Bridgeville, Delmar, Harrington, Georgetown, Milford, Millsboro, Milton, Seaford, and Smyrna.  

What is the Main Street program?

Based on the Main Street Four-Point Approach®, the Main Street program is a unique preservation-based economic development tool that enables communities to revitalize downtown and neighborhood business districts by leveraging local assets to local enterprises and community pride. It is a comprehensive strategy that addresses the variety of issues and problems that challenge traditional commercial districts.  

For over thirty years, Main Street has recorded successes to prove its effectiveness as a program of economic development whereby communities build on their downtown's unique, authentic community assets. 

Some of these local assets include:

  • historic assets (buildings, landmarks, public areas)
  • natural assets (such as waterways, beaches)
  • cultural assets (such as colleges/universities, arts venues, events)
  • political assets (such as would be found in a capitol city or county seat)
  • business assets (a combination of destination/specialty retail and Mom & Pop retailers and service providers)

In all cases, a significant core of historic buildings must be present in a town designated as "Main Street", and preservation of the buildings that exemplify the history of the district must be an ongoing ethic within the community.  Each Main Street program is volunteer-driven, is often organized as a non-profit entity, and is coordinated by a paid professional Executive Director of Program Manager. Volunteers representing a wide variety of public and private interests in the downtown, such as merchants, property owners, community organizations, residents, preservationists, and the municipality, are engaged in the effort.

How Does the Main Street Program Work?

The Main Street Four-Point "Approach" is a comprehensive strategy in which the four areas of Organization, Design, Economic Restructuring and Promotion are integrated into a comprehensive program designed to draw upon local opportunities and build community self-reliance for downtown development.  The philosophy and Eight Guiding Principles behind this methodology make it an effective tool for community-based, grassroots revitalization efforts.

Nationally, the Main Street Approach has been successful in communities of all sizes, both rural and urban.  Certified Main Street towns must meet rigorous criteria for recognition annually.  

For more information on the Main Street program, click here

Downtown Delaware/DEDO | 820 North French Street | Tenth Floor | Wilmington, DE 19801

To contact Downtown Delaware, click here or call 302-577-8477   (Fax) 302-577-8499