Old Milford Diner marked for demolition

The Milford Diner in downtown Milford, once a city landmark and now an eyesore that is falling apart, has a small sign that says “demolition” on it this week, suggesting it will soon be coming down.

In April SBC owner Bill DaSilva said “as of right now there is a guy that is going to take it to somewhere in the midwest and rehab it.”

DaSilva has not been reached yet this week to confirm if that is still the plan.

The diner has been sitting neglected for years. In 2014, when the Milford Mirror last wrote about the once-popular downtown eatery, the Milford Diner restoration project had already fizzled, and DaSilva wasn’t sure what to do with the diner.

DaSilva said in 2014 that after the diner closed way back in 2003, it probably should have been turned over to someone who restores diners. It didn’t go that route because a group of well-meaning Milford-based preservationists tried to save it, but those efforts didn’t pan out.

DaSilva has made it clear that the structure will be coming down, said Joe Griffith, Milford’s director of permitting and land use. Griffith said a city demolition permit will be required if the diner is dismantled with the intention of being rebuilt, or dismantled as trash. And while the owner has inquired about the demolition application process, he has not completed it yet, Griffith said.
From the Milford Mirror story in 2014
The Milford Diner was once a city landmark, serving breakfast to area residents for many years. Some people still remember the red vinyl booths and the red counter stools that added color to the small city eatery.

The Memaj family ran the restaurant before retiring in 2003, at which time it looked like the structure would be demolished.

John Lombard, a resident and businessman, stepped in and purchased the diner for $100,000 at the suggestion of his young son to help the Memaj family. His plans to move it and reopen it, however, fell through because, he said, the former owner of the New Haven Avenue parcel where the diner was located claimed ownership of the diner.

“In the middle of the legal wrangling the [Memaj] family informed me they would not be able to run the diner in our proposed new location due to health issues,” Lombard said. “At that point we dropped our efforts to move the diner.”

In 2009, a nonprofit group took up the battle call to save the city landmark and assumed control of the Milford Diner. The group was trying to raise about $80,000 to renovate the building.

They intended to turn the iconic, stainless steel diner into a tourist and information center.

The group launched a website, themilforddiner.com, and its newsletter, “The Blue Plate,” was intended to list free and low-cost events at the diner at 13 New Haven Avenue.

While it would never serve food again, the 1946 “Silk City”-style diner could return to being a community hub, said the people who hoped to save it.

“It has been empty for over six years and has been left in great disrepair,” the committee’s Web site stated in 2010. “Restored, the Milford Diner would sell for approximately $50,000 to $60,000. There are two Silk City Diners on the National Historic Register.”

DaSilva worked with the committee as they pursued their goal. The Milford Diner Committee entered into a letter of agreement with him to buy the building and maintain a long-term lease on the property.

Repairs to the diner were expected to be fairly extensive, including work on the structure, roof, heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Interior restorations would have included tiling and work on the booths to bring the diner back to its 1946 appearance.

The diner committee raised about $8,500 through two events, and was pursuing grants and other types of funding. And they were hopeful for a while.

When Hurricane Irene hit in 2012, one of the key movers and shakers behind the restoration was pulled away because of storm damage to her own home. The other driving forces ran into some personal obstacles too, and then the diner started creating its own set of problems. For example, an architect told the group that in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, two additional parking spots would be needed for the diner.

That created a problem because the restoration committee had an agreement with DaSilva that that the diner would not infringe any more on the SBC property.

So the committee turned the building back over to DaSilva in 2012.

DaSilva said the biggest issue he saw with the diner from the get-go was that in order to use it for any kind of eating establishment major money and renovation would have had to be poured into it.

“Once it was closed, you couldn’t do anything with it related to a restaurant unless you brought it up to code,” DaSilva said.