Milford Residents Develop Vision Of Downtown’s Future

Milford’s downtown is due for a citizen-led makeover.
That was the idea behind a workshop open to the public held Aug. 2 at City Hall seeking input on ideas for the future of the downtown area. It was the second of three: the first took place June 14, and the third will happen in the fall.

The meetings were spurred by the city’s acquisition in 2016 of the property at River and High streets. But the Downtown River – High Street Development Committee and civil engineering consultants BL Companies are looking beyond that, spearheading a redesign of an area that extends roughly from the Milford DMV to the Milford Harbor.
The 27 people who attended heard a recap of the results from the first meeting, which involved a series of visionary exercises that grouped people together to come up with separate ideas for the downtown area; be it imagery, parking, shops, entryways, or parking.
Julie Nash, Director of Economic and Community Development for the city, said the second workshop’s purpose was to see if any of the concepts proposed at the first meeting gained steam.
“Do we like this? Do we want to move forward with this? Do we want to make changes?”
BL Companies civil engineering manager Geoffrey Fitzgerald presented initial conceptual development plan options that were drafted from the first meeting’s discussions.
The planners are trying to balance the needs of Milford’s city-sized population with the small-town charm that lends the downtown area its special character.
That part of the city comes with a unique mix of opportunities and challenges. It includes a number of municipal structures, such as the Milford Public Library and City Hall itself. It also has numerous restaurants and businesses, along with a fair amount of open space.
The group discussed enhancing the downtown streets to make it more comfortable for pedestrians. At the same time, everyone seemed to agree that parking is a problem, with the train station and multiple storefronts all sharing real estate.
Ideas also included working with the Milford Arts Council to beautify the area with paintings and other installations.
“We are swapping ideas and coming up with things that I never even thought were possible,” Nash said.
After the presentation, the attendees broke out into small groups to discuss the concepts presented so far. Nash said that by the third meeting, they hope to have a concrete plan that the city can take to a developer and begin making a reality.
“When the project is done, it’s going to be a compilation of everybody’s thoughts and ideas,” she said.

by Brandon T. Bisceglia, special to The Orange Times