Aldermen approve plan to buy lots and create more parking downtown

Milford’s Board of Aldermen this week approved a plan to buy four downtown lots to increase parking in Milford Center.

The board also agreed to accept a $4.99 million grant from the State of Connecticut Bonding Commission to pay for the land.

The vote allows the city to move forward and buy  44-64 River Street, 0 River Street, 145 High Street and 0 Railroad Avenue.

The intent is to increase parking in downtown Milford in several phases, including constructing a two-story parking garage that the city itself would finance. The final project is expected to create about 400 new parking spaces, along with a mixed-use development and anchor store.

The largest parcel is 44-64 River Street, which houses the Corner Convenience store and several smaller businesses in a 15,394-square foot building on 1.28-acres of land. According to the Milford assessor's database, the parcel was valued in 2013 at $1,675,490. This property and the adjacent 0 River Street are both owned by Joseph Agro of Agro River Street LLC. The property at 0 River Street is a 0.38-acre parking lot and was valued at $449,710 in 2013.

DeLeo Brothers Property Group of Weston owns two other parcels. There is a 4,000-square-foot building on 0.38 acres at 145 High Street, which was valued in 2013 at $560,960. There is also 0.28 acres of vacant land at 0 Railroad Avenue, valued at $111,480 in 2013.

Mayor Ben Blake told the Board of Aldermen Monday night that this is “very exciting news. It will allow us to increase parking downtown.”

Very soon after buying the land, the city will be able to add 40 to 60 new parking spaces on the undeveloped lots, Blake said.

He envisions the multi-phase project, including the parking garage, to take at least three years to complete. Because of the grade of the land, a two-level parking garage can be constructed that would not overwhelm the downtown landscape, he said.

The mayor said he doesn’t have all the details regarding the leases held by companies currently on one of the parcels, such as Scratch Baking and Corner Convenience.

But he estimated that the businesses pay about a quarter million dollars in rent each year. He said none of the businesses will be kicked out when the city buys the land, but rather the city will honor leases if possible and allow the businesses to remain as long as possible in the building.

Responding to questions from the aldermen, Blake said a committee will likely be formed to start developing plans for the property.

Several aldermen urged the mayor to take into account the neighbors on Darina Place and other surrounding streets to make sure the project does not negatively impact them.