Council Approves Downtown Development Plan Proposal

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2By Terry Rogers

On Monday, April 13, Milford City Council approved a proposal by Arnett Muldrow & Associates to create a Downtown Milford Master Plan. The proposal was approved by the Economic Development Committee earlier in the evening.

“Milford has been getting good attention recently,” said Mayor Bryan Shupe. “Delaware Today recently named Milford the next boom town and we are being mentioned throughout the state. Recently, I was invited to speak at a conference for downtowns throughout the country in Atlanta to explain the good things we are doing here in Milford. While I was at the conference, I had a discussion with Diane Laird of the Delaware Economic Development Office and expressed an interest in developing a vision for downtown.” Mayor Shupe explained that Delaware Economic Development Office (DEDO) offered a $24,000 grant toward the development of a strategic plan for the city.

Arnett Muldrow & Associates have developed branding systems for 400 communities in 35 states, helping create and implement more Community Identity Systems than any other firm in the country. They are a city planning and marketing firm based in Greenville, South Carolina, specializing in community branding, downtown revitalization, economic development and historic preservation. The proposal offered by the company was to develop a strategic plan for downtown Milford at a cost of $27,250. The grant from DEDO would cover $24,000 for the plan and they asked the City to pay the $3,250 balance as well as dedicate $20,000 in funding for downtown improvements.

“We could reactivate the Economic Development Advisory Committee that disbanded when we let the previous economic development director go,” said Councilman Garrett Grier, who also acts as chairman of the Economic Development Committee. “The committee would be made up of community members, business people and others with a vested interest in promoting the downtown area. They would work toward implementing the strategic plan created by this firm.”

According to Mayor Shupe, downtowns have become the heartbeat of communities and research indicates that a strong downtown promotes economic development. He explained that he has been in talks with individuals who were considering the purchase of both the former M&T Bank as well as the old firehouse on SW Front Street for businesses that would draw even more visitors to the downtown area.

“Every one of them has asked me if we have a plan, a vision for downtown,” Mayor Shupe said. “Arnett Muldrow will give us the plan and vision we need to bring more business to our town and help promote the downtown area even more.”

Councilman Skip Pikus said that four different business people had spoken to him about the Downtown Strategic Plan and all saw a need for the plan. Councilman Pikus said that the only concern expressed was that the city create a vision that had a good mix of businesses in the downtown area.

“Although we want to promote our branding of ‘River Town, Art Town, Home Town,’ we don’t want to focus on art alone,” Councilman Pikus said. “The business owners want more than just art in the downtown area and I think we need that to provide a stable economy throughout Milford.”

Councilman Grier explained that DEDO requested that the strategic plan be started no later than June and Arnett Muldrow said they could begin developing the plan by that time. City Council voted unanimously to provide the funding for Arnett Muldrow & Associates to create the Downtown Strategic Plan.