Downtown Milford roadwork affecting business

By Elle Wood
Posted 4/12/24

With growth comes some growing pains, and right now, downtown Milford business owners are feeling them.

Due to ongoing road construction, travel has been hampered through one of the busiest retail districts in the city.

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Downtown Milford roadwork affecting business


MILFORD — With growth comes some growing pains, and right now, downtown business owners are feeling them.

Due to ongoing road construction, travel has been hampered through one of the busiest retail districts in the city.

One project, taking place on the bridge over the Mispillion River and shutting one block of North Walnut Street, began March 18. City of Milford crews are developing a raised bridge deck to slow down traffic and are creating a pedestrian crossway for the disabled, linking both sides of the riverwalk.

During the road’s closure, some business owners are reporting a decrease in their patronage.

But they want potential customers to know that their establishments remain open, and parking is available.

“Business has dropped off,” said Marc Clery, owner of Shock Vinyl in The Shops at Penny Square on North Walnut Street. “I have talked with some people who have stopped in and said, ‘Well, we thought the road was closed, and we did not think we had a place to park.’

“I’m trying to put stuff out on social media to let people know that the road is actually open. It is just closed at the bridge.”

On the other side of North Walnut, Mark Dissinger, the owner of Dolcé Bakery & Coffee Shop, said he’s seeing a similar issue.

“Since the Walnut Street construction has begun, we have noticed a dip, and a lot of it has to do with access and people figuring out new routes to come to their regular shops,” he said. “Parking is also sometimes an issue, but overall, there is a lot of parking in downtown Milford. It’s just a matter of if people want to utilize it.”

Businesses like his have relied on social media to remind patrons that they can still visit. Some are also promoting sales and discounts to drive in more customers.

“We have offered some percent-off discounts on certain days for certain groups, like a discount for the Milford School District during spring break (two weeks ago),” said Mr. Dissinger. “We are just reminding people that, not only for ourselves but for our neighboring businesses, ... everyone is open.

“We want your business, and we want everyone to come down to utilize our products and services.”

He added that, though sales may be slower, he is enjoying the support the neighboring shops are showing for each other in their online posts.

“It’s nice to see that collaboration that everybody shares,” Mr. Dissinger said.

Calls to city officials regarding the progress of the riverwalk project, as well as its anticipated completion date were unanswered Monday.

Meanwhile, one of downtown’s largest gatherings is coming up in less than two weeks. The Bug & Bud Festival is set for April 27, and its organizers are concerned.

Sara LeBright, the director of Downtown Milford Inc., said the plan is for construction to be at a point where people can walk the full length of North Walnut Street by then.

“They are telling us it will be done,” she said. “The construction is right outside my office, so I ask them daily. The area will be open and walkable.”

And, despite some business owners’ frustration, Mr. Clery said he knows the work is necessary and that he is hopeful for what it brings to the area.

“There is nothing we can do to stop the construction. It needs to be done, and they are doing it,” he said. “We are eager for the project to get done in a timely manner.”

Mr. Dissinger said he’s looking forward to the upgrades bringing more customers downtown.

“When the Walnut Street Bridge is done, it is going to be a showpiece in downtown Milford that a lot of people are going to enjoy,” he noted. “With the farmers market (opening May 4), downtown gets busier on Saturdays, and there are a lot of activities coming up in the spring and summer.

“The other road project, on (nearby) Front Street, will be a really pretty gateway to the city and really invite people to continue to come downtown and shop the small businesses.”

Regarding that Front Street initiative, which involves sidewalk replacement, the Department of Transportation’s director of community relations said it should be done by summer, depending on weather.

“Our goal is to have it complete before the summer,” said Charles “C.R.” McLeod. “We do not have an exact date yet. We just need the weather to cooperate. If it cooperates, and we can get paving done, then we are in the homestretch.”

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