Downtown Renovation to Open Retail Space

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By Terry Rogers

Davis, Bowen & Friedel, Inc. are currently in the process of extensively remodeling the former Milford Skating Rink building on Park Avenue. Once the renovation is complete, the company will move all of their offices into the renovated space, combining two offices they currently lease on Walnut Street in downtown Milford.

“The main reason we decided to do this was to combine our offices,” Mike Wheedleton, Architect-Principal at DBF, said. “We wanted to remain downtown, but we needed to get all our employees under one roof. Right now, they are crossing the street, which is not always safe, and we have to deal with weather. By combining both offices together, it is better for our staff but it is also better for downtown.”

Mr. Wheedleton said that DBF began in the Odd Fellows Building in 1995. In 2010, they moved into what was the old Grant’s Department Store, leasing the space from Silicato Development. They also leased the building at 28 North Walnut Street from a different landlord. The new location is 16,000 square feet, allowing the company room to expand.

“The building we have been using, the old Grant’s Building, needed major repairs, as did the skating rink,” Mr. Wheedleton said. “It needed a roof replacement, updated electrical and many other items. To do those repairs, the skating rink was told the rent would have to go up significantly and they were unable to negotiate with Mr. Silicato. That had nothing to do with our company and we are sorry that there was such controversy about it.”

The new building is being renovated in keeping with the recommendations of the Rivertown Rebirth plan, the downtown Milford strategic plan completed by Arnette, Muldrow & Associates. Mr. Wheedleton said that DBF is taking cues from surrounding buildings like the library, adding a brick and stone façade to the building and adding windows.

“This building has what we call a zero property line, which means the building has no area surrounding it,” Mr. Wheedleton said. “It butts up to sidewalks and other buildings, so we were limited on what we could do to the outside. We wanted to use brick because that fits in with the rest of the buildings around it, but traditional brick would not work. Instead, we are using thin brick that looks authentic, but is much narrower than regular brick. We are also adding wood siding in keeping with the residential character of Washington Street and a stone veneer on the entrance. Design 101 says you need to make your entrance stand out and we feel this does.”

Mr. Wheedleton said that, like many old buildings, the renovations have been hampered by designs of years past. Although the building was part of Grant’s, it had also been other businesses, including a car dealership. This means that the building was not square, making it difficult to design some aspects. In addition, the loading dock for Grant’s was at the entrance to the skating rink, which is why it was necessary to go up steps to access the rink.

“The floor was about three feet higher there than the rest of the floor,” Mr. Wheedleton said. “Like all loading docks, the height was to allow trucks to back in and be unloaded easily. We have added a lengthy handicap ramp as we had to make our building ADA compatible. That was quite a challenge.”

Mr. Wheedleton said that DBF hopes to be moved into the new office space in June. This will free up the 28 North Walnut Street location for additional retail. Delaware Music School recently announced that they will be moving into the 23 North Walnut Street location after it is renovated for their needs, freeing up the current location for the school, which is located at 10 South Walnut Street, for retail space as well.

 

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