Taking Downtown Uptown
An aggressive state revitalization program provides a boost to Kent County municipalities.
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Four Kent County communities are hitting Main Street—the Delaware Economic Development Office’s Delaware Main Street Program, that is.
The program, part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, combines historic preservation with economic development to revitalize downtown neighborhoods.
Following is a look at the four communities in Kent that are benefiting from the program.
For 10 years the nonprofit Downtown Milford Inc. has provided about $2.5 million in renovation and redevelopment grants to the city’s 150 businesses. Last year the Delaware Main Street program also provided a boost.
“Becoming part of this state and national program has helped us improve the services we can provide to Milford,” says DMI executive director Beth Durham. “We are now able to work with DEDO on restructuring Milford’s economic base in terms of addressing business vacancies, identifying at-risk merchants, and identifying and supporting more sustainable businesses for our community.”
The affiliation helps DMI win small business loans to assist with operational issues, including inventory purchases, systems upgrades and employee training.
“We’ve been able to disperse in the vicinity of $30,000 in loans available through the USDA,” Durham says.
DMI is sponsoring a Community Visionary Process to elicit feedback that will improve conditions for residents and businesses. “We’ve been able to help improve foot traffic in retail stores by exploring the Internet’s capacity to create click and mortar business growth,” Durham says.
Click and mortar combines the marketing outreach of a retail storefront with marketing capabilities of the Internet.
Durham, DMI’s first paid employee, has been executive director for three years. About $1.25 million has been spent on facade improvements in downtown Milford, she says, and a recent plaque sale program raised enough for a street beautification program in conjunction with the Garden Club of Milford.
“We’ve now added benches, trees and other plantings to give downtown a more natural, small-town look,” she says.
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