After years of trying to figure out what to do with the former Sheets Building located at 20 E. William St., the home’s future was on full display for the community to see on Friday. Main Street Delaware (MSD) held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil the newly-renovated home, which will now serve as The Delaware Welcome Center and the new home of the nonprofit organization.
During the event, guests were able to tour the home to see the renovations as well as meet with new MSD Executive Director Courtney Hendershot, who took over the position on July 11.
Friday’s event served as a finish line of sorts for MSD, which took over as the tenant in the building nearly two years ago after the city was unable to gain approval for plans to clear the site for a brand new welcome center.
Prior to the lease agreement, a proposal by the city to demolish the building was ultimately withdrawn in 2017 after the plan was met with opposition from the Historic Preservation Commission. The following year, a plan to raze the home and construct a new welcome center on the site was also proposed but failed to garner approval from the commission.
With it becoming increasingly clear that demolishing the building would not be supported, Delaware City Council approved the lease agreement to allow MSD to renovate and repurpose the house in August 2020.
“It’s exciting,” MSD Program Coordinator Caroline Pusateri told The Gazette. “It’s been a long time coming from the first time we saw the building in 2018 to signing the lease in 2020 and then obviously going through a pandemic and experiencing some of the shortage in supplies and just finding contractors to do the work. It’s mostly just exciting to finally be ready to open up and show the community the hard work we’ve put in.”
After entering into the lease agreement, then-Executive Director Susie Bibler and the MSD team were tasked with raising the necessary funding to pay for the renovations to the building, which totaled $210,000. Hendershot said the goal was surpassed by “a couple thousand dollars,” estimating it was capped at approximately $213,000.
Asked about the impact she believes the welcome center will have on downtown Delaware, Hendershot shared hopes of the building becoming a landmark that attracts more people to the area.
“I think when you think about our downtown and the city of Delaware, in general, having a welcome center, it will start to be almost a landmark or an icon for our downtown,” she said. “One, because it puts Main Street Delaware on the map even more, but two because it invites more people to come down to our downtown. Now, they can come here to use the restroom or to get tourist information, so it’s really going to be a landmark for our downtown and kind of aiding in putting us on the map and allowing people to better know what’s in our downtown.”
Pusateri added of the benefits MSD will see from the building, “Our mission statement is to be a vibrant downtown experience for all … We know some people can’t make it down to our events or they experience the world differently, so if there’s not a restroom accessible to them, they might not even consider coming downtown. Offering that option just helps us complete our mission statement more fully.”
Hendershot went on to say MSD had outgrown its previous space on Winter Street, particularly with the amount of storage necessary given all of the various events MSD puts on, but now everything can fit under one roof. Having multiple rooms in the building will also serve to benefit the organization in that it will allow for separate meetings to be held simultaneously, as well as to provide space for other organizations such as Destination Delaware County, which also has an office in the building.
Although Friday’s event was primarily about showing off the new welcome center to the community, it also served to allow Hendershot to meet more of the community as she settles into the executive director role. Hendershot called the event a “huge opportunity for me to get to meet some of our donors and sponsors that I haven’t yet gotten to meet in the past” and a “great networking event for me to make those relationships and continue to build on what Susie (Bibler) and Caroline (Pusateri) have already been doing in the past.”