Survey says: Georgetown, Dagsboro mapping Downtown Development District plans

AECOM dvornick

During a special Dec. 3 event hosted by AECOM at the Old Sussex County Courthouse, Georgetown Town Manager Eugene Dvornick points to targeted areas included in the town’s Downtown Development District Plan.

SUSSEX COUNTY – The towns of Georgetown and Dagsboro are in the pre-planning stage, hoping down the road to spur incentive-driven economic development as a state-designated Downtown Development District.

Funded by grant money from JP Morgan Chase, Georgetown and Dagsboro are collaborating with consultant AECOM – an American worldwide provider of professional technical and management support services – on application preparation for a Downtown Development District Plan.

“The JP Morgan Chase fund allows towns to apply for the grant to prepare the plan, then to be eligible to be designated as a state Downtown Development District,” said Debbie Pfeil, Project Manager for AECOM.

AECOM georgetown

AECOM is working with the towns of Georgetown and Dagsboro on public surveys, task force and community input in preparing a Downtown Development District Plan. From left, AECOM intern Katja Burke, Project Lead Lauren Good, Project Manager Debbie Pfeil and interns Kyra Swisher and Krutik Patel.

The town of Georgetown received $45,000 in grant funding; Dagsboro’s grant was a bit less, Ms. Pfeil said.

In January of this year, Gov. Jack Markell announced his selection of Seaford, Dover, and Wilmington for designation as initial Downtown Development Districts. Under the DDD program, the first three DDDs had to include one district in each county.  State lawmakers allocated $7 million allocation for the first year.

At present, that funding pot is empty.

“There is no funding in the current fiscal year,” said Georgetown Town Manager Eugene Dvornick. “Obviously, the municipalities are pushing for it again for the next legislative session.”

“It’s an application that will be ready at that point in time when the state announces additional funding for Downtown Development designations,” said Mr. Dvornick. “The key is that it’s an implementable plan. It’s not something that just gets put up on the shelf and looked at every 10 or 15 years. So we’ll be able to use it for other funding opportunities.”

The DDD program was created by legislation proposed by Gov. Markell and passed unanimously by the General Assembly last year. Under the program, designated districts are entitled to receive significant development incentives and other benefits to spur investment and community development.

Among other benefits, investors who make qualified real estate investments in DDDs will be entitled to receive grants of up to 20-percent of the cost of their investments.

9 Downtown district Task Force members

Task force members for the Georgetown Downtown Development District Plan.

A task force with diverse representation has met twice on Georgetown’s Downtown Development design plan.

“What it opens is incentives from both the municipal standpoint as well as incentives and various funding from different state agencies like Delaware State Housing Authority,” Mr. Dvornick said.

Georgetown’s tentative downtown district proposal totals about 84 acres, encompassing several blocks extending from The Circle north along North Race Street and east on East Market Street out to Parsons Lane, which borders the Georgetown Little League property.

“There are a few parcels that will go off a block or two from East Market Street or North Race Street. It helps guide us from The Circle all the way down to Parsons Lane,” said Mr. Dvornick, adding the design could be modified. “We’ve got some areas that are going to be ‘green’ forever so we’ll probably take that out as open space/park land.”

One goal of the Downtown Development District Plan is to create a vibrant place where people stay after work to dine and shop. It also serves as a primary tool to stimulate economic activity.

Several interns are working with Ms. Pfeil and Lauren Good, Project Lead for AECOM.

“We’ll go over demographics and housing, economic development, land use and zoning, and transportation …,” said Ms. Pfeil. “We’re really going to do community outreach.”

For now, it’s “Survey says …”

A community-wide survey campaign was launched in Georgetown Dec. 3 in conjunction with the annual Christmas parade. Similar survey plans are to be showcased in Dagsboro Dec. 10 – the night of the town’s Christmas parade, again featuring a family photo booth shoot.

“We want everybody to put as much input as possible on the plans for consideration,” said Ms. Pfeil.

Georgetown’s survey is accessible on the town’s website:

“It takes about 10 minutes to complete. Anyone can fill it out. If there are five people in the household we welcome input from all five,” said Mr. Dvornick.

In Delaware, AECOM has bases in Millsboro and Wilmington.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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Encompassed in red, the proposed area in Georgetown’s Downtown Development District Plan that would extend north and east from The Circle.


News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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