In the town of Laurel in Western Sussex County, what started as combating water pollutants has become a full-scale downtown redevelopment project. After completing a watershed implementation plan in Bridgeville, University of Delaware marine advisory service agent Ed Lewandowski was asked by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control to do the same for Laurel with the goal of reducing contribution of nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous to a vulnerable Chesapeake estuary. As the town worked with UD on the environmental effort, the community realized that its waterway was its most valuable asset.
While working with stakeholders, Lewandowski was approached by Laurel Redevelopment Corporation (LRC) — a nonprofit focused on revitalizing the town — about its ambitious economic development plans. Lewandowski organized several community workshops to hear directly from residents about what they wanted for their downtown and what an eventual plan should incorporate. The town was keen on making improvements to its downtown district, specifically the Old Town neighborhood just south of the waterfront.