Working for Smart Growth:
More Livable Places and Open Spaces

 

A Century Later, a Mill Comes Full Circle


Project Name
: Guenther Mill Redevelopment Plan, Dover
Redevelopment of a historic mill within a residential neighborhood into a combination of retail, housing, and urban arts and manufacturing spaces

Partners: Town of Dover, Guenther Mill Urban Renewal LLC


Paul Guenther was a German immigrant who arrived in Dover in the 1890s and began operating a silk mill. In 1902 he moved his enterprise to the current location, which was at that time on the very outskirts of town. As the business grew, he built more buildings until eventually, from a multi-building complex that spanned two city blocks, he was running the largest silk hosiery manufacturing company in the world.

At its height, Guenther’s business employed approximately 1,000 workers. Guenther built housing for them, as well as churches and community centers, all within easy reach of the factory, and a new community was born. But the fortunes of the silk industry changed, and by the end of the 1930s the mill had closed, reopening only briefly during World War II to manufacture twill jackets for members of the armed forces. Suddenly the Guenther Mill community had lost the very reason it had existed in the first place.

In 2016 the two-block complex was declared an area in need of redevelopment, and a plan was developed over six months that would provide for the rehabilitation of the buildings into apartments, retail, and industrial arts and manufacturing spaces. The plan sought “to develop a framework to achieve goals and objectives and to address development challenges, while … providing enough flexibility to accommodate future stakeholder needs and shifting market forces.”

Local officials understand that this development needs to remain financially viable over the long term, and are intentionally implementing its elements very gradually, in order to give themselves the ability to respond to changing market conditions moving forward. But when implemented, the plan will accommodate a growing residential population that prefers apartment living to single-family homeownership — an opportunity the town was previously not able to afford them — as well as retail that will serve both residents and the surrounding neighborhood, and commercial and industrial uses that can provide local jobs. King Street, which runs between the two blocks, will be closed to traffic and repurposed as a central event and gathering space. The Dover train station, a walkable half-mile away, offers new residents a one-seat ride to New York’s Penn Station.

Construction is due to start in the spring of 2017. When the implementation is complete, a community and its center will have been re-established, and Guenther Mill will have been reconnected to its neighborhood, just as it was a century ago.

Supporting partner: Maser Consulting P.A.

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