Architect summarizes study of Milford at special meeting Tuesday

After several months of public meetings and talk about how Milford should look in the future, architect Alan Plattus and his team from Yale’s Urban Design Workshop are scheduled to present their gathered information to city planners Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Milford City Hall.
Plattus was hired by the Milford Chamber of Commerce group called Milford Progress Inc. to help look at the downtown area and come up with plans for its future. The city also tapped Plattus to come up with recommendations for several other areas of the city, specifically the “gateway” to downtown that runs along Cherry Street, the shoreline area, and Walnut Beach.

People were outraged at times, surprisingly convinced at other times, as Plattus went through his process of gathering information and sharing ideas over the past month during public meetings. Talk about recreating the public space at Fowler Field behind Milford Public Library drew the most dissention, although some residents did grasp his vision and admit they liked parts of it.
Instead of ball fields and tennis courts, Plattus projected an image on a screen of a waterfront shopping center that would have 60 residential units, 30,000 square feet of retail, and more access to the harbor.
Most of the people who filled a lower-level room at the Milford Public Library for that presentation didn't like the idea. One woman got up and walked out, muttering, "We paid for this?" But as the meeting moved on, residents softened a bit and started to listen to the various scenarios Plattus painted about the Fowler Field area.
The city’s Plan of Conservation and Development, which must be updated every 10 years, provides a blueprint for how the city will develop in the future, and Plattus was hired to help create the new plan. It gives planners a template, so they can steer the kind of development they want in certain areas by offering building incentives and adjusting regulations tailored to the city's architectural desires.
Plattus proposed several other options for Fowler Field. It can be left as it is, an option he doesn't support, or there can be minimal changes, such as moving the road that runs between the tennis courts and the water inward so there is more waterfront access for pedestrians.
One proposal had a 28-unit residential building facing New Haven Avenue, located behind the ball field in the far corner of Fowler Field. One ball field would have to be sacrificed for that plan; parking for the building would be virtually underneath it because of the steep slope of the land.
Fowler Field "is full of good stuff," but they aren't really related to each other, Plattus said.
Residents agreed with Plattus that Cherry Street from Gulf Street to I-95 is an extension of the downtown area, a gateway into the city, but unattractive and out of character with the rest of the city.
There could be landscaping and a bike lane along Cherry Street. The site of the former movie theater could be a mixed-use commercial and residential development, "where you almost have a neighborhood." One resident suggested the site might be developed to look like Milford Marketplace, a commercial development at the site of the old Wayside building.
New shops could be built at the edge of the parking lot in front of Bob's Stores, close to the road, so that the area doesn't appear to be all parking lot. Parking would be between the front buildings and the stores in the rear.
He said he wouldn't suggest changing the end of Cherry Street between the green and Gulf Street, where older homes have largely been turned into office buildings.
Plattus also talked about Milford’s shoreline, and showed residents pictures of Milford 100 years ago, when smaller beach cottages and larger homes with big windows and front porches helped create a neighborhood feel.
Today the look has changed in many areas. Vinyl siding has replaced clapboard siding, and renovated homes now often feature big garages that face streetside, creating a colder, more impersonal look from the street.
Storms, redevelopment and changing regulations have paved the way for this new look, Plattus said.
Plattus also said that while government regulations can call for elevating homes to protect them from flooding, the regulations don't control all aspects of the home's appearance, and that's why people need to start talking now about these issues.
Of about 50 people who attended a meeting at the Milford Public Library, about half indicated they live along the beach. Several said they are concerned about homes that are renovated too large or too high.
Plattus said creating new regulations can help control that. He also said residents can create incentives for people to adhere to a certain look when they renovate by, for example, letting them add a structure to the top of their house that exceeds the height requirements if they agree to other aesthetic improvements.
City officials will use Plattus’ report and recommendations as they move forward to finalize an updated Plan of Conservation and Development.