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Yale Design Expert to Host Milford Planning Workshop

This is your chance to share your vision for Milford.

Want to help shape downtown? Have ideas to improve the city's planning and development and thoughts to spark economic growth?

Great! Come on down to the Milford Public Library on Wednesday, Feb. 29, at 7 p.m. for a public meeting and presentation by Dean Alan Plattus of the Yale Urban Design Workshop.

Plattus' presentation, brought to you by Milford Progress, Inc. (MPI) -- the city's official economic development agency -- will be based on ideas already gathered as a formal plan is developed.

The public is invited to attend and contribute thoughts and ideas to be considered in the process. In the meantime, share your ideas here on Patch in the comment section below.

JP February 16, 2012 at 02:38 PM
Agree with James completely. The major retailers above will only locate where there is high traffic, meaning the Post Road. If they can't get space in the mall, they would go for any of the open real estate in the strip malls heading up to Orange. The Green should concentrate on it's strength, restaurants. One good suggestion I saw in an earlier article was for a small grocer with meals-to-go. The Big Yellow truck at the train station is filling that need now for commuters coming home in the evening, but a similar place along the Green could target the car traffic along the Green heading home every rush hour.
Steven Petti February 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Well put, JK and James. My mention of a "diamond in the rough" wasn't meant to spur a discussion on attracting big retail organizations to downtown (let's face facts...we simply don't have the infrastructure to support their needs), but rather to present the possibility of attracting independent businesses, whatever they may be, to a decent looking downtown area. Basically, let's work to clean it up as best we can. True, there are no guarantees and yes, Route 1 will always be the center of major commerce in our area, but that shouldn't preclude us from trying to clean the place up. For example, fix up Harrison's Hardware so it will at the very least not look like a crack den (in its current condition there are broken breakfront windows, peeling paint, garbage strewn about inside, looks horrendous). The current owner should fix this blighted property. Having a burned out large structure on the Green is inexcusable. I'm not suggesting bringing in any large retail business, heck I'm even for more accountants, attorneys and insurance agents...anything to help make the place more presentable. Run down buildings, defunct gas stations, etc. are just unacceptable.
arkay February 19, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Technically, Greenwich Ave is just as far from Route 1 as our downtown is, but I digress. Greenwich is infinitely more affluent and high profile, so it's a different case. I do agree it won't be Westport as that's their "mall" and in a high traffic area, and they're an extremely affluent area. I'm referring to the concept of having 1-3 anchor national retailers that typically spring up in downtowns. Small goals. The downtown, first and foremost needs more foot traffic. Retail will happen in areas with foot traffic and less automobile traffic. Milford is a diamond that won't be discovered by a retailer. Smart planning, parking reorganization, increased awareness, better signage from 95/1, continuing to court good developers, PR/good marketing all have to happen. There's been unseen potential, and yes the economy is not forgiving at the moment, but I can't say the town has done everything it can to be progressive about it.
arkay February 19, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Apparently the current owner is being fined $100 a day for blight. The town is considering buying the property if it doesn't sell soon and bidding it out to developers.
arkay February 19, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Blue Black Square in West Hartford is a good example of a smart development. I wonder what the traffic stats on Main Street there were like. Certainly nothing like Route 1. West Hartford had a good foundation to build off of with their large downtown though, which we don't have and should by all means. I don't know, I just don't agree that all potential is lost because of Route 1. The area is still growing in population and popularity and the younger generation moving in (myself included) prefer downtown shopping and restaurants to malls and strip shopping.
arkay February 20, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I also just spoke to someone who is one of the top commercial brokers in the Danbury area. He said Milford downtown could easily attraction CERTAIN national retailers. Not all would do well or be interested. But there are some that would be a good fit. Especially anchor niche businesses (like many I named above) that have significant pull and can survive outside of malls. Let's not have a myopic view and focus on the "can't". Yes, we should attract more indie businesses, restaurants, etc. But it shouldn't stop there. Improvements should continue to be made and good developers should be courted. The city should pay far more attention to Yale's recos this time around than last.
am February 20, 2012 at 03:38 AM
How about a Colony Grill in old Harrison's location? It is an old fashion tavern with bar pie pizza; currently have spots in Stamford and downtown Fairfield. I heard recently that the owners were interested in overhauling the space. Would it fit?
arkay February 20, 2012 at 06:27 AM
It would definitely fit, but with a pizza place going into Daniel Street and the new Milford Green Pizza, not sure how many more the downtown really. Plus, Colony is OK and does well in Stamford and Fairfield, but pizza standards are a bit higher when you get closer to New Haven. I would think an off-shoot of BAR or Modern Apizza would do a lot better.
arkay February 20, 2012 at 06:27 AM
typo: not sure how many more the downtown NEEDS really. oops.
Steven Petti February 20, 2012 at 02:56 PM
@RK...thank you for that information on Harrison's building's owner. I didn't realize that the town was fining him for blight. I give credit where credit is due, so I commend the town for fining him to try to get this plot cleaned up.
JE February 20, 2012 at 05:05 PM
City money was not used to replace the sidewalks in Devon. That was federal grant money.
JE February 20, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Fining the owner and collecting on those fines are two very different things. I will bet the city has not seen one dime from the owner for fines that have been levied.
Wayne Schwartz February 20, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Every time I pass through Milford center and look at the green, I think that a landscape architect needs to be called in. Milford has the longest Green in New England, yet little attention has been given to the planting of trees. Some time ago, dogwood trees were planted in neatly spaced rows along the perimeter of the green. This gives an unnatural appearance. Anyone with a knowledge of landscaping knows that you plant trees in clusters (usually containing an odd number of trees--3-5-7, etc. Dogwood trees have a lifespan of 40 or so years. It's time to give some thought to planting some new trees in a more natural way, similar to The Boston Common or New York's Central Park.
RONALD M GOLDWYN February 20, 2012 at 06:57 PM
We in Mfd. have parks for different uses. Our Green was not designed to be filled with trees, but as a meeting place for groups such as the Oysterfestival and Craft fairs. The present design seems well suited for that purpose. Downtown Milford is not designed for the high flow of traffic, with the congestion caused by the narrow memorial bridge of one lane in each direction. better traffic flow along the Green only bottlenecks at the bridge. So at evening rush hour I avoid South Broad St. I also hate the intersection with the flashing stop sign. It is unfair to cars wanting to cross the Green. Finally, when the economy improves, storefronts will be rented. It is my hope that an aesthetics committee will be created to enforce a code that makes the downtown area have a historical seaport look with-out lighted storefront signs. We pride ourselves as being in the top ten historic communities of Conneticut. Lets make the heart of Milford reflect our past.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 12:25 AM
As I drove by Harrison's today, I did think of the concept of a boutique hotel. I honestly think it would do well. Currently, all lodging in Milford is of the awful chain hotel variety. If you just need a decent room off 95, it's great. But you'd NEVER stay at one to enjoy our town, our beaches, or anything else. They're purely transient. In and out and the impression of Milford from those vantage points probably isn't as good as it should be. How to position it? Several ways. Look at the Study at Yale in New Haven. Pure definition of a good boutique hotel. Nice rooms, trendy decor, well marketed, upscale feel. But not overly expensive. The downtown Milford hotel could be priced at the same price as a nicer chain hotel like Hyatt Place. You capture several audiences with this. Big corporations in the area like Schick and Subway will want to house their visitors to impress them during their visit. If the hotel is smart, it'll work out corporate deals with companies in the area to keep it full during off-times. Parents can stay there to visit any number of schools in a 10-15 mile radius, while having dining, a beautiful New England green and harbor, and beaches nearby. It's a nice alternative to charmless chain hotels, or staying in the more urban areas of New Haven. Boaters in the summer could be attracted to it as we'd be one of the few harbors with a very nice hotel within walking distance.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 12:25 AM
And it opens up the possibility of some coming in just because it's a beautiful place to stay. Right now, Milford downtown is enjoyed mostly by residents. It's the town's best kept secret and shouldn't be. The hotel could make the green, downtown and harbor suddenly a destination for weekenders escaping the city. Yes, it's that beautiful of an area that people might actually want to stay there. On the ground level, have a nice restaurant and bar. Do an open floor layout like The Study does with Heirloom. The next 2 floors are all rooms. Personally, I think it's a brilliant suggestion on behalf of the Yale planning team. On the ground level, have a nice restaurant and bar. Do an open floor layout like The Study does with Heirloom. The next 2 floors are all rooms. Personally, I think it's a brilliant suggestion on behalf of the Yale planning team.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Last thought - unlike renters in apartments, hotel stayees are PURE spenders. Restaurants, shops, etc.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 12:32 AM
We definitely don't want more rush hour thru-traffic going through downtown, but the area desperately needs more traffic during other times of the day, especially during big spending times - lunch on weekdays, evenings, weekends. It's IMPOSSIBLE for an outsider to get to dowtown without having an address in their GPS. The signage from 95 and the Merritt Connector is pathetic. There's barely any. Signage should guide us to downtown from exits 35-39S and from the connector exits. There should be clearer and sooner signage coming into Cherry Street from the mall. The current sign is hard to read and could even give the impression that the ShopRite area is downtown to an outsider. There needs to be clearer signage where 1 and 162 split at Stop & Shop guiding people to 162 to go to downtown. I'm in marketing, and it's a very basic problem. Awareness. Even people in the direct area don't know where downtown Milford is. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to that think it's Route 1 where the mall is.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Rainbow Gardens has a small little shop in the back separate from the restaurant with great meals to go!
arkay February 22, 2012 at 02:32 AM
There's a lot of complaints about the Bank of America building and its ugliness. Well, something can be done. That area can be re-developed. In fact, it's the perfect location. The area in front of the train tracks and behind the green is a hodgepodge of old office buildings, banks, and parking lots. It's close to all the popular downtown shops and restaurants, which forms a central business district. What a perfect spot for a mixed use development. http://i.imgur.com/bMwNj.jpg Bank of America and Milford Bank could easily be absorbed into the new development. If not, it's not like banks can't find good locations in town. It's much harder to find prime real estate to improve downtown. The parking garages could serve both train commuters and the new development, so perhaps the state or feds could help out in their construction. It alleviates the commuter and downtown parking problems, along with other changes (like diagonal parking). They could be done at 2 stories so they don't distract visually from the green, but be integrated with the local New England coastal style like the newer Spinnaker buildings.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 02:33 AM
(cont.) Eliminate street parking on Depot and widen it a bit to accomodate 2-way parking garage traffic. You could even extend Depot to S Broad Street as that section of the green is just grass/trees. Set up a traffic signal at Depot and N Broad. Now you have ample parking and a smaller version of the Black Black Square development in West Hartford that was so popular. Blue Black Square is relavant as it expanded their downtown greatly with mixed use development and attracted a lot of national chains that weren't at the huge nearby Farmington mall.
arkay February 22, 2012 at 02:53 AM
***Blue Back Square. :/
Wendy Zimbardi February 29, 2012 at 01:53 AM
How about an outdoor recreation store where Harrison's used to be? Like a small North Cove Outfitters (that is now closing) or REI. That would be AWESOME & encourage more outdoor sports here. And those stores are FUN to browse in & can offer outdoor recreation workshops.
arkay February 29, 2012 at 03:12 AM
REI would be great.
arkay February 29, 2012 at 04:55 AM
REI could also go in the old CVS building. A good retailer or restaurant needs to go there, it has the parking. Not another bank or medical office building!
Tessa Marquis February 29, 2012 at 04:52 PM
A lot of good suggestions. As a former member of the Economic Development Commission, Downtown Milford Business Association, and Board of Directors of the Milford Chamber of Commerce, I have been a big supporter of all attempts to improve Downtown. Some projects are long-term, some are mismanaged, some succeed. You may hear "That won't work" or "We already tried that" but good city planning and community-friendly redevelopment requires continuous attempts and constant vigilance. Regarding signage: The city has been giving large grants for many years to the Chamber's organization "Milford Progress" but no signage has been produced. This is a project that should no longer be funded by our tax dollars in this way. Regarding parking: I was on a Parking Task Force for several years and there are a few restrictions to federal or state grants that need to be considered. As for diagonal vs parallel parking, this needs a traffic study and review of various laws. It is problematic and not a silver bullet, but interesting to discuss.
Tessa Marquis February 29, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Regarding Marketing Downtown: Without funding this is nearly impossible. We did quite well for a few years, with donations from Milford Bank and individual businesses, and designed Pirate Day, Open Doors of Milford, and presented free movies on the Green. We simply ran out of money and some of the major talents went on to other projects. A professional marketing firm - not amateurs with yearly turnover - should be hired or built up within the city's Economic Development office. I have more to say but have annoyed everyone enough for one day.
RONALD M GOLDWYN February 29, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Tessa, I grew up and lived in Great Neck NY for 50 years. Our main street for shopping originally had diagonal parking on both sides of the main drag, but in the 60's this gave way to parallel parking due to backing out of the parking space into traffic. This form of parking is now used only in parking lots and large garages.
Richard Platt February 29, 2012 at 05:11 PM
There is an excellent B&B on Prospect Street; the Lily Pad. Small, yes, but a far cry from the "awful chain hotel variety."
arkay March 03, 2012 at 04:53 PM
That's great, but one B&B is not enough. More accommodations in downtown would be welcome.

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