by Terry Rogers
Milford City Manager Eric Norenberg is as optimistic for 2019 as he was for 2018 when it comes to growth in Milford. Major investments by Bayhealth, Perdue Farms, Columbia Care, Nationwide Healthcare, Nemours and others along with the success of the Downtown Development District and an improving economy indicate that Milford will continue to grow in the upcoming year.
“Bayhealth, Nemours and Nationwide Healthcare have major projects continuing into 2019,” Norenberg said. “Small and medium-sized businesses have announced projects in several areas of Milford. Commercial and residential building permits are above last year’s levels. We also continue to see strong interest in the Downtown Development District, and now, investors are interested in Milford’s Opportunity Zone. As a result, I feel that as long as the national economy continues to be healthy, progress will continue in Milford as well. The strength of the larger employers and the housing sector is especially encouraging as it will provide additional customers and patrons for our growing small business retail and restaurant sector.”
Norenberg feels that healthcare, sports and homebuilding are having positive impacts on Milford’s economy. In 2017, residential building permits increased by 228 percent over 2016 and increased by 23 percent in 2018, he explained.
“Homebuilding is clearly a positive contributor to the economy, bringing more construction jobs and an increase in residents who will shop in Milford,” Norenberg said. “The nearly completed Bayhealth Sussex Campus hospital, the planned adaptive reuse of the former Milford Memorial Hospital and the new Nemours/Bayhealth medical arts building will add jobs to the Milford economy. Finally, Milford is benefiting from the success of the DE Turf complex. We are fortunate that these healthcare and sports facilities serve the needs of local residents while also drawing visitors from outside the area who can experience all Milford has to offer.”
At the start of 2017, Norenberg recognized that many residents were pushing for better code enforcement in the City. As a result, the City of Milford changed some of the methods used for rental inspections and budgeted for an additional code enforcement officer. During 2018, the City designated additional resources to actively implement and apply existing regulations. The City now has a detailed code enforcement progress report available online so that residents can monitor how well the program is going.
“There are before and after pictures for those violations that have been remedied over the past 12 months,” Norenberg said. “The City continues to actively pursue the demolition of condemned structures and the execution of restoration agreements to address dilapidated and abandoned dwelling units throughout the City. We are seeing increased private investment, specifically in the Downtown Development District area, focused on fixing residential units. Since September 2016, over $875,000 has been committed or spent to fix up residential properties that were in violation of the City’s property maintenance code. In addition, the City is finishing up rental inspections in the Sussex County portion of Milford and will inspect all rental units in the Kent County portion during the 2019 calendar year.” Norenberg said that the public can continue assisting the City with code enforcement by calling 302-424-8396 or using the online form under the “How Do I…” section of the City’s website.
The City plans to continue improving economic growth in 2019 by partnering with Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the Kent Economic Partnership, Sussex County Economic Development, The Delaware Division of Small Business, Downtown Milford Inc. and the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford. Through these partnerships, the City hopes to create awareness of opportunities available in Milford. Earlier this year, the City applied for an Opportunity Zone designation which was approved. The Opportunity Zone is being marketed as an additional development incentive. In addition, the City continues to support events throughout town which led to Milford being awarded the Village of the Year Award by Kent County Tourism as well as receiving an award from Sussex County Tourism in recognition of the Ladybug Festival.
“The City is working on several projects through DelDOT designed to aid visitors in locating and getting to key destinations,” Norenberg said. “First, the grade-separated interchange project at Route 1 and Route 14 is proceeding. It includes Milford branding so visitors will easily identify where they can access downtown Milford. Connecting that project to downtown will be an improved Northeast Front Street. The project is currently being designed, will have utility improvements, bicycle and pedestrian amenities as well as better stormwater management when it is completed. In southeast Milford, City representatives have supported traffic safety changes adjacent to the new Bayhealth campus and are working with DelDOT to develop a transportation improvement district to support future growth.”
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