by Terry Rogers
Acting City Manager Mark Whitfield sees a bright future for Milford in 2020 and beyond with a commitment of over $21 million in private investment in the City currently under construction or expected to break ground this year. The private investment leveraged over $2.4 million in state rebates and $230,000 in fee wavers or abatements from the city.
“Using recommendations from the Riverwalk Rebirth Plan, working with the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, Downtown Milford, Inc., and the private sector to put together a list of potential projects for a steering committee to review and prioritize in 2018,” Whitfield said. “Some of the projects in the Plan were not included while others were and others are nearly completed or underway.”
Several projects underway in the downtown area that were assisted by the Downtown Development District program, a designation the City received based, in part, on information in the Riverwalk Rebirth plan, include the Pikus Building and BenVenuto Restaurant, both of which are nearing completion. The Northwest Front Street Townhouse Project is slated to break ground soon and TADA dance studio has redeveloped a vacant building. In addition, the Riverfront Theater recently completed renovations and upgrades to their building.
“Fur Baby is investing in an older structure on Northeast Front Street and several new construction homes are nearing completion or slated to begin construction,” Whitfield said. “The City is working with DelDOT in finalizing streetscape plans for Northeast Front Street from North Washington Street to Northeast Fourth Street. We have made improvements to the Northeast Front Street parking lot in front of Arena’s, added branded bike racks on City land and have budgeted for parking lot directional signage.”
In addition to cosmetic and construction projects, Whitfield explained that Southeast Second Street will have water and sewer projects completed this winter with DelDOT planning to pave in late summer. The Northeast Front Street streetscape will include a bike path, sidewalks, curbs and street lighting as well as street resurfacing. This project should begin in early 2020. Streets with deteriorated curbing will be replaced in areas where lead water service line replacement is planned. The City is also planning to install ADA-compliant handicapped ramps as well as replacing outdated less efficient high-pressure sodium street lights.
“City Code Enforcement is wrapping up rental inspections for Kent County and will begin a four-year routine inspection cycle for rental properties with Ward 1 in 2020, Ward 2 in 2021, Ward 3 in 2022 and Ward 4 in 2023,” Whitfield said. “Officials have been working to address vacant and dilapidated structures along with exterior property maintenance violations. Several homes that have been in poor condition for many years have been either torn down or are in the process of undergoing major rehabilitation work.”
Whitfield believes the economic outlook will improve significantly for Milford in the upcoming year with the movie theater planned to open mid-year and the Bayhealth/Nemours medical office building nearing completion. Beach Babies is constructing a new building on Marshall Street and a medical office building is planned on Silicato Parkway and Route 1. Several tenants have begun moving into the Milford Wellness Village which will bring an influx of visitors to the downtown area.
“The sum of permit values has risen from $3.6 million in 2013 to $40.9 million for 2019,” Whitfield said. “This is a good indicator of investment levels in the community. The combination of low interest rates, low property taxes and expanding healthcare is expected to continue to drive a strong housing marketing in Milford. Early in 2020, Council will consider rate increases for City utilities as outlined in the Cost of Services Study report provided in December. The rate increases re needed to fund future capital improvements needed within each of the utilities, in part spurred by growth. Additionally, an Electric Cost of Services Study will be completed to address a number of issues, including the possibility of discontinuing Winter/Summer rate differential for electric. Having a uniform year-round electric rate will be an attractive incentive for businesses considering moving to Milford.”