Clear Space demolishes Rehoboth Avenue structures

Historic bungalow at 413 still stands; new theater plans submitted to city
May 22, 2020

Story Location:
Clear Space Theatre Company
415 Rehoboth Avenue
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971
United States

With days to spare before Rehoboth Beach's annual demolition moratorium May 15, Clear Space Theatre Company demolished two of three structures on its three Rehoboth Avenue lots.

In preparation for building a new home, Clear Space purchased three lots – 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. – in late 2019. The structures demolished May 11 were a two-story house at 415 and a small garage behind the one-story cottage at 413.

Per city code, every year from May 15 to Sept. 15, the city has a moratorium on demolitions of any building 750 square feet, or larger or having a connection to city water or sewer lines.

In an email May 16, Wesley Paulson, Clear Space executive director, said the two structures were demolished as a safety precaution and to reduce upkeep on the property. 

Still standing on the 413 lot is a one-story cottage designated as a rare surviving example of a beach bungalow as part of an environmental assessment required by U.S. Department of Agriculture officials for a community facilities loan Clear Space has applied for to help fund the project.

The city issued a demolition permit for the bungalow in February, but because it is designated as rare, the theater was forced to market the house. Clear Space is offering the one-story structure for free, in as-is condition; a buyer would have to pay to have it moved. Due to the moratorium, the earliest Clear Space can now demolish the bungalow is Tuesday, Sept. 15.

Paulson said Clear Space expects to hear from the federal government in the next six to eight weeks if it has met the attempt-to-market requirements for 413. The garage on the property, he said, was not part of the historic classification. 

In addition to demolishing the two structures, Clear Space has also submitted to the city a new set of theater plans. In October 2018, Clear Space introduced a new, 25,600-square-foot home on Rehoboth Avenue, but those plans were scrapped after public pushback. In March, Paulson said plans now call for a two-building design – a 256-seat theater at less than 15,000 square feet and an administrative office at less than 9,000 square feet, but those plans had not officially been submitted to the city.

In the May 16 email, Paulson said the plans were submitted to the city roughly two weeks ago. He declined to share what the facility would look like and declined to comment on when he thought the plans would go before the planning commission for public review.

During the city solicitor update of a commissioner meeting May 15, City Solicitor Glenn Mandalas said the plans submitted to the city consisted of 140 pages of full-size drawings.
He said because of Freedom of Information Act requests made on the subject, he, the city building official and Clear Space were working on making some of those drawings available online.

Rehoboth demolitions come to a standstill

After beginning the year on a record-setting pace, demolitions in Rehoboth have all but come to a standstill in the past couple of months.

The city issued its seventh demolition permit Feb. 20 for a one-story single-family dwelling and an accessory structure at 39 Columbia Ave. In 2019, a year which saw the record set at 34 demolitions, the city didn’t issue the seventh permit until March 4.

Only two more demolition permits have been issued in the months since, with none coming after March 17.

The city issued a permit March 9 for a two-story single-family dwelling at 7 Lake Ave. This property sold for $1.5 million in July 2019. The house, built in 1951, was 3,328 square feet and had six bedrooms and three full baths.

The city issued a permit March 17 for a one-story single-family dwelling at 209 Lake Drive. Built in 1989, the dwelling has four bedrooms and four bathrooms, and has 2,383 square feet of livable space. The property is currently for sale at $1.829 million.

Permits issued annually, since April 2012:
  • 2012: 14
  • 2013: 15
  • 2014: 23
  • 2015: 23
  • 2016: 30
  • 2017: 30
  • 2018: 27
  • 2019: 34
  • 2020: 9 to date
Permits issued by month, since April 2012:
  • January – 19
  • February – 12
  • March – 24
  • April – 8
  • May – 6
  • June – 3
  • July – 9
  • August – 42
  • September – 28
  • October – 26
  • November – 17
  • December – 11

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