Franco's Pizza running out of time to find new location

It looks like it will come down to the wire for Franco’s Pizza in downtown Milford.

The building where Franco’s has been located for 28 years is going to be replaced with a new structure — a parking garage, retail store and apartments — and Franco’s still has to find a new location.

The city bought the building and property where Franco’s has been located in 2015 with the intention of turning it into a new development. Other businesses previously located there, like Scratch Baking, have already found other locations.

Franco’s didn’t rush to find a new spot, thinking they had more time. Now it looks like they may have not much more than 90 days to vacate the property.

City officials said Angela and Franco Patrizi, who own Franco’s, will be getting a letter from the city attorney soon. They will have 90 days from receiving the letter to vacate, according to Economic Development Director Julie Nash and City Attorney Jonathan Berchem.

Berchem isn’t sure when the letters will go out to Francos, as well as a state probation office and another office still located in the building at 44-64 River Street. Last week Berchem was working on an agreement with the developer, and had to focus on that first.

Milford’s Board of Aldermen recently voted to sell the parcel at 44-64 River Street to Metro Star Properties so Metro Star can construct a three-story structure including a retail anchor store, underground parking garage and surface parking, plus 50 apartments.

The plan follows more than two years of studies into incorporating the parcel into a downtown transit-oriented development.

Under the agreement, Metro Star will purchase the 1.28-acre parcel for $500,000, develop it and then lease parking to the city for $1 a year for 97 years.

Angela Patrizi said she and her husband knew there were plans to develop the downtown property but thought plans would take more than a few years to materialize. 

She doesn’t think the city did all they could have done to help her and her husband. Milford’s motto says it is a “small city with a big heart,” but Patrizi said to her it’s a “big city with no heart.”

“It’s sad because we’ve been a part of the Milford downtown community almost three decades,” Patrizi said.

The city’s economic development office has worked with the Patrizis, making phone calls on their behalf and advising them about available funding, such as grants and loans, and the city can still offer that type of assistance, Nash said.

Others tenants have taken advantage of funding from both the Micro Enterprise Assistance Program and the Small Business Express, Nash added.

Berchem said the city has been very transparent regarding plans to knock down the building. He said the economic development office has worked with the Francos, “but there is only so much we can do,” he said.

Nash couldn’t say how long it will be before the building on River Street is demolished. The developer will have to go through the permitting process, she said, speculating it could be six months to a year before the building comes down.

Angela Patrizi and her husband, who immigrated from Italy as a young man, saw owning this downtown business as a dream come true. Working 80 hours a week, sometimes more, in the downtown pizza restaurant, he’s developed quite an attachment to the location.

As of last week, Angela said they still hadn’t been told exactly when they have to be out of their current shop on River Street.

But they had recently taken some new steps to find a location. Angela posted on Franco’s Facebook page, “Just wanted to post to let people know what's going on here at Franco's. We are looking for a new location. Not sure how much time we have left.”

She got some responses from that and arranged some meetings to discuss prospective sites. Nothing has been settled yet, and the couple welcomes more ideas and proposals.

One prospect “looks hopeful but isn’t definite,” Angela said.