The sanctity of Fowler Field led the concerns of the roughly 80 people who attended a workshop given by the Yale Urban Design Workshop (YUDW) at the Milford Public Library last night.
The planning is part of the city’s review of its Comprehensive Plan of Conservation and Development which the state mandates each municipality complete every 10 years. The YUDW was retained by Milford Progress Inc., a division of the Chamber of Commerce, to assist in the design of a new plan for the city’s downtown
“I would hate to see development down there,” said Tim Chaucer, the former chairman of the Milford Conservation Commission who also served as a member of the Planning and Zoning Board. “Fowler Field is a treasure.”
Former alderman Barbara Genovese agreed, stating unequivocally that “Fowler Field should not be touched."
After one voice wondered if Fowler Field could be developed for retail use—much to the chagrin of other members of the audience--both Milford resident Joe Agro, who serves on the Board of Finance, and Alan Plattus, who leads the YUDW, questioned whether any private developer would take on the task of developing that area.
The tributes to Fowler field as a vibrant center for Milford’s recreation came in an evening where Plattus and Milford citizens also discussed two other concerns in the downtown area—parking and the downtown traffic circulation patterns.
Plattus said that the rule of thumb for downtown parking is to expect persons to park once, and then move by foot to their destinations. Toward that end, he discussed the task of finding strategic locations for additional parking. He mentioned the courthouse site as one possibility.
“Downtowns are now neighborhoods,” Plattus remarked. “People are engaged in their community. This is all healthy.”
Plattus said that Milford has what planners term “great bones.” It has public open spaces, immediate access to the waterfront, a train station, and a compact pedestrian scale with a walkable downtown.
Among the city’s challenges, he observed, were its need for a larger retail footprint, parking management and a strengthening of the downtown’s restaurant sector.
He said that the department stores that once drew persons to downtown centers were not coming back, and that downtowns now looked to restaurants and entertainment venues to draw persons to them.
Earlier in the day, Robert Gregory, the community development director who serves on the board of Milford Progress, confirmed that the YUDW had worked with the city just over 10 years ago when the town put together its last conservation plan.
He said the most significant recommendation for the downtown from the earlier project that the city had implemented was the development of housing downtown.
He cited the development of the new 50-unit apartment complex Prospect Falls on Prospect Street, the conversion of buildings from commercial to residential use and the creation of mixed-use properties that now have housing on the second and third floors. Another recommendation that is underway is decorative signage throughout the downtown area, he said.
“You plan for the good times,” said Gregory when asked what vision a downtown adopts in difficult economic times. “Obviously, development is slower in times like this. Unless you have a plan that looks at the best times, you won’t accomplish what you want.”
Gregory said he expected that the report with its recommendations for the downtown would go to the Planning and Zoning Board, which must approve it, by late spring. He termed the planners “on target” for having their recommendations folded into the town’s plan, which is slated for completion by the end of this year.