Downtown Milford Inc. has a goal to vitalize the downtown area in order to create a destination not only for those who live locally but also to entice others to come discover what downtown has to offer. Executive Director Janne Collins explained that the organization uses committees to achieve those goals, all of which are in search of volunteers.
“We are an accredited Main Street America member which means we follow their plan for the revitalization of the downtown area,” Collins said. “We are guided by our Board of Directors, led by our president, James Rabe, that is open to business owners who want to grow the downtown area. They meet the first Tuesday of each month at the DMI office starting at 5:30 PM.”
Also led by Rabe is the Organization Committee which meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month via Zoom which creates a strong foundation, sustainable revitalization efforts and cultivates community partnerships, Collins explained. This committee is responsible for creating and managing social media pages, the website and developing lists of resources for the downtown Milford area. Collins explained that DMI’s footprint includes North and South Walnut Street that extends through the downtown area. It extends down Southwest Front Street, out to the Riverwalk Shopping Center, down Northwest Front Street to Parson Thorne Mansion. It also extends down Maple Street to Westside Restaurant, around City Hall to the Vinyard Shipyard and Mulholland Spoon Mill.
“Our Organization Committee is looking for people to assist with website design as well as grant writing,” Collins said. “The goal of that committee is to ensure community engagement and encourage partnerships across sectors, including the Milford Museum, Milford Parks and Recreation as well as the Milford Public Library and Milford Senior Center.”
Currently seeking a chairperson, the Promotions Committee promotes a positive image of downtown to residents, shoppers, visitors and investors. The committee’s goal is to position the downtown commercial district as the center and hub of the community.
“We want to showcase the community’s unique characteristics like the Riverwalk, our charming downtown, things like that,” Collins said. “We do that partly by having festivals and activities in the downtown, whether it is a scavenger hunt or a huge festival. Last year, our festivals and activities, including the Farmer’s Market, brought more than 30,000 people into downtown Milford. This was not just local people. This is why DMI is here, to revitalize the downtown, not just for local people, but people outside of Milford. We don’t want to deter locals from coming downtown, but we have to pull people in from outside of Milford in order to truly revitalize. That is the ultimate goal of promotions to show people all over Delmarva that Milford is a destination.”
All the committees at DMI have some overlap, Collins explained, especially the Promotions and Economic Vitality Committee. Led by Dave Pickrell, the Economic Vitality Committee meets the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 4 PM at DMI. This committee assists new and existing businesses while also working to recruit new business in the downtown region. In addition, the committee works to create a catalog of property available for new businesses, something they are working to develop.
“Main Street has a vision for what downtown should look like,” Collins said. “It should be mostly shopping and restaurants, not office space. Ours is top heavy with office space right now, but we are starting to get more shops. It’s diversifying in that regard, slowly, but it is moving in the right direction. One of the things we’ve learned through Main Street is, they did a study on this, if you are walking through a downtown and you go more than 20 feet without seeing a shop where you can look in windows and see things they have, people will turn around and go back to their car. They will not continue exploring your downtown.”
Joe Phillips heads the Design Committee which meets the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 6 PM at Causey Mansion. Collins explained that this committee is responsible for creating a beautiful downtown.
“They put all the flowers out, they decorate the downtown for each season, they make sure we have banners in place,” Collins said. “They were responsible for the military recognition banners and the international banners that were placed in the downtown area. They support the community transformation by enhancing the physical and visual elements in the downtown while capitalizing on our unique assets like our Riverwalk and they celebrate our historic character as well. They encourage people to create public spaces that are beautiful and accessible.”
Collins stated that some committees are formed from other committees. This includes the Farmer’s Market which was originally under Promotions but has grown so large it has become its own committee. Led by Melissa Pingue and Shelby DiCostanzo, this committee meets the 2nd Thursday at 5 PM at the DMI office. This committee handles anything to do with the Farmer’s Market.
“This is ideal when we develop something that is sustainable, that can operate on its own,” Collins said. “That is the model we want to follow. We want things that are repeatable. Third Thursday is a good example, if there was a Third Thursday committee that would enhance those events.”
Volunteers can serve on more than one committee if they choose, Collins explained. Currently, DMI is creating an Arts and Humanities Committee with the goal of not only bringing more arts, music and cultural events to downtown, but provide a group where local artists, writers, historians, genealogists, photographers, dancers, videographers and others who work in the artist realm can share ideas as well as work together to promote the arts in Milford.
“That committee is open to anyone who wants to be part of it,” Collins said. “One thing that is a common misperception is that DMI is only for downtown businesses. We are open to anyone who has a passion for revitalizing the downtown area. People who live in Ellendale, Lincoln, Houston, Slaughter Beach, South Bowers, even Frederica and Harrington, come to Milford to shop and participate in activities. Although our footprint focuses on growing the downtown, we welcome anyone who wants to see the downtown become a destination for visitors and residents.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for a committee or the Board of Directors at DMI can reach out to Collins by calling 302-839-1180 or emailing [email protected].
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