Milford group to hold planning session

MILFORD – Questions as big as the empty Bales School and as perennial as getting volunteers will be in the air when the Milford downtown group DO-IT holds its annual strategic planning session next week.
The session is open to all ideas, but new DO-IT Executive Director Jessica Hejtmanek said she hoped that at least some attention would go toward improving the Oval’s business climate.
“I know some of the businesses could really use more foot traffic,” she said. “We’d like another anchor, to bring more people into town.”
Although business remains brisk downtown, a few empty spaces have lingered, including the former Milford Travel and the long-closed Boston Shoe Store on Nashua Street, the former Chrome Wear clothing store on South Street and the former Joe’s Barbershop on the Oval.
Questions also remain about several large buildings. The Milford Methodist Church on Mont Vernon Street is for sale while the Bales and Garden Street schools just off Elm Street remain empty, or nearly so.
“We’d like to make sure buildings continue to be full, to get back on track for (business occupancy),” Hejtmanek said.
Hejtmanek took over as director of DO-IT (Downtown Ongoing Improvement Team) earlier this year, following the departure of Andrea Galligher, who helped create the group and ran it for almost a decade but who said it was time for new blood.
DO-IT grew out of a desire to bring life back to the Oval, which lost business and grew shabby through the late 1980s. For years it worked on creating events such as the Great Pumpkin Festival, farmers’ markets in the summer, and the Lunchtime Concert Series on the gazebo, and sprucing up the Oval as part of Milford’s groundbreaking participation in the national Main Street Program.
Now such events are well established and efforts to improve sidewalks and curbs have moved to more peripheral areas such as Bridge Street.
Hejtmanek says this may mean it’s time for the group to refocus.
“Over the last two or three years, a lot of the improvements have come to fruition, and people are saying, ‘Everything’s great and finished!’ So we’ve definitely seen a decline in people getting involved,” she said. “We need more people.”
The biggest immediate issue for Milford is a warrant article to tear down the 77-year-old Garden Street School and replace it with a police station.
Despite DO-IT’s desire for historic preservation, the group has cautiously supported the plan because of its support for keeping government services in the center of Milford.
“If the existing structure cannot realistically be utilized as a station, then a new facility should incorporate elements of the community and its historic character,” says the group’s statement.
DO-IT has not, however, taken a position on another controversial idea: Putting a cell-phone antenna on historic Town Hall.
David Brooks can be reached at 594-5831 or