‘Rivertown Rebirth’ continues to evolve

MILFORD – A crowd spilling into the main entrance of city hall gathered on Monday, Jan. 11 to watch changes unfold as the city of Milford continues to evolve and grow.

Officers lined the perimeter of the council chambers in Milford on Monday night to bid farewell to Chief E. Keith Hudson and welcome the new Police Chief Kenneth Brown. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Officers lined the perimeter of the council chambers in Milford on Monday night to bid farewell to Chief E. Keith Hudson and welcome the new Police Chief Kenneth Brown. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

 

Chief E. Keith Hudson passed along his chief badge to Chief Kenneth Brown on Monday night. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Chief E. Keith Hudson passed along his chief badge to Chief Kenneth Brown on Monday night. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

“I told the new city manager not to expect this crowd at every meeting,” Mayor Bryan Shupe told the crowd.

Bidding farewell with a smile

Now former Police Chief E. Keith Hudson began the meeting in his usual seat around the council table, but he was not there long. Swearing in the new police chief, Kenneth Brown, was the first order of business of 2016 for the council.

“This is dear to my heart,” Chief Brown said. “It means a tremendous amount to me.”

Mayor Shupe officiated the oath of office while Chief Brown’s fiancee held the Bible on which his hand was laid.

Immediately following the oath, Chief Brown presented a folded American flag to Mr. Hudson.

“A brand new flag flew for the business day, your last day,” he said. He, along with many other community members, bid Mr. Hudson a fond farewell during the meeting. Only expressions of gratitude were heard throughout the chambers for his many years of service to Milford.

City of Milford master plan update

The majority of the meeting revolved around what was referred to as the “Rivertown Rebirth” by councilmembers and the presenter alike.

Ben Muldrow of Arnett Muldrow & Associates presented the update to councilmembers and a room still filled with community members.

“The participation from the community was really, really high compared to other locations,” he said, commenting that he had met with over 200 residents over several months to continue the master plan process.

Partially due to its unique character, Milford has plenty of room for growth which hinges on factors such as education, safety and health care.

“Milford is primed and ready for economic growth because you have been focusing on all three key factors,” he said.

He hopes the area will cultivate riverfront dining experiences, along with additional retail opportunities in downtown and other areas of Milford.

Smaller changes could also make big impacts, he said, such as lights along the “menagerie of wires on Park Ave.”

The master plan update included possible facade changes to businesses in town such as the Milford Skating Center and Davis, Bowen and Friedel buildings.

“Architecturally, it’s a big blue box,” he said of the skating center. “We talked with the property owners. They were amazed in the difference a small investment could be. People think when you look at a giant blue cinder block, it’s going to take a lot of money. I think there might be a little hesitation of who wants to jump first, but there’s lots of excitement.”

To add additional retail spaces to the downtown area, Mr. Muldrow suggested a micro retail development called Vinyard Village. This space would include modular buildings that take up 1-2 parking spaces. They could serve as temporary or permanent areas for small businesses.

He also suggested a change to the green in front of Second Street Players: a splashpad.

“It’s a fine green space, but it hasn’t actually served its purpose as that gathering space. City managers love the idea of splash pads. There’s no insurance to worry about and people get to use the space,” he explained.

Some of the other current mainstays of the downtown area may get a facelift during this process as well, such as Lou’s Bootery which Mr. Muldrow would like to see restored back to its original look. The corner which once held Warren Furniture will also need work.

To turn the suggestions into possibilities, funding will be needed but councilmembers were assured that it can be easily found.

“Grant funders love to fund people that do. The entire reason Milford received the grant for this process is because you all have shown you use grants well,” he said to councilmembers.

Quite a few funding mechanisms exist and may be utitlized to help further the goals of Milford’s master plan, including the development of an economic development corporation which would be a 501(3)c non-profit organization.

“Milford is a beautiful, charming town. People love it while they’re here,” Jo Schmeiser, executive director of the Milford Chamber of Commerce, said. “We just need a little more to do.”

The next steps for the master plan or Rivertown Rebirth include meeting with community leaders followed by a strategy presentation in February.

Mr. Muldrow said of the process, “We’re very excited to hear from the citizens. We want to take that excitement and turn it into progress.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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