More parking coming downtown: Anchor shop and more in the plans

There will be 100 new parking spaces downtown within three months, and more to come within the next three years, city officials said Wednesday as they announced the completion of a city land purchase in downtown Milford.

About 20 people dodged raindrops under an awning outside the building that houses Corner Convenience, Scratch Bakery and other businesses as city officials explained the purchase and plans for four downtown lots — 44 to 64 River Street, 0 River Street, 145 High Street and 0 Railroad Avenue.

Mayor Ben Blake said the downtown area boasts restaurants and shops, but parking has for many years limited growth in downtown. “We didn’t have a substantial amount of parking,” he said.

The land purchase should fix that. The largest parcel purchased 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. 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.

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, and 0.28 acres of vacant land at 0 Railroad Avenue.

Last year, Governor Dannel Malloy announced nearly $5 million in state funds for the city to buy the properties, which total approximately 2.2 acres next to the Milford train station.

The state also provided $150,000 to pay for a site plan and market analysis.

With all that accomplished, Blake said there is “still a way to go.”

In the next three months there will be 100 new parking spaces, and another 200 or more spaces will be added over the next three years. While there has been talk of a parking garage, Blake said studies still have to determine the exact concept. He said it may be an elevated parking deck that matches the current grade of land near the train tracks, with parking below as well.

One of the next steps is for the city to appoint a development committee to oversee parking designs and an economic improvement study.

The committee will develop a parking management program and parking regulations, discuss whether there will be parking fees, and work with the businesses currently in the downtown building to possibly relocate after their leases are up in 2018.

Joseph Agro, the landlord for the shops on the site until this recent sale, said, “It’s with a heavy heart that we part,” noting that he and his brother, Lou, saw the value of the downtown property when they were children, delivering newspapers in the area.

He praised city officials and attorneys who put the land sale together, and said it’s “perhaps one of the best land acquisitions the city has made” in recent years.

Tracy Bonosconi is president of the Downtown Milford Business Association and owner of the Lovet Shop on River Street. She said the property purchase will help downtown businesses to flourish.

“The 100 spaces will be an incredible boost for the businesses,” she said, adding that the additional spaces that will be added over the next couple of years will make downtown even more vibrant.

Chris Carveth, chairman of the Milford Chamber of Commerce Executive Committee, said the purchase is a “feather in the cap for the city of Milford.” Tina DiNapoli of the group Milford Progress Inc. agreed, saying that a lack of parking has been a problem downtown for years.

The ultimate plan is to have an anchor store in the space, in addition to the added parking, and studies and inquiries will help determine what that anchor store might be, Mayor Blake said.