The Orpheum

Shaping up on Washington Street.

Three blocks southwest from the Cocheco waterfalls, a cluster of dilapidated storefronts have fallen to make room for an imposing five-story mixed-use building. The design makes high-impact use of a somewhat triangular site and, in a deal with the city, a traffic bottleneck on the busy Chestnut-to-Locust streets connection will be eliminated, hopefully lessening congestion on Central Avenue as well.

Named for a small, long-gone movie theater in one of the storefronts it’s replacing, the Orpheum is adjacent to two landmark buildings of similar height. It shifts the center of gravity in the central business district from buildings facing Central Avenue, repositioning the center around the Lower Square intersection with Washington Street. City hall, the post office, public library, community center, and a new parking garage are all within a one-block orbit.

Visually, it’s also filling in the skyline – not one of high-rise towers, but one of some substance.

In contrast to what’s happening in Boston and, I assume, many other urban centers, Dover’s renaissance is small-scale. For me, that’s part of what makes all of this so exciting.

Visually, I like the way it looks like two buildings from some angles while giving a backdrop to lower buildings along Central Avenue when seen from others.

It looks like two buildings from this side. Or, from the rear, like a small courtyard. City hall is to the right.



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