Families Lose In Milford’s Downtown

The following news release will be presented today to local outlets via email…

Milford, DE- A thirty-five year old business, Milford Skating Center, closed its doors for the last time to roller skating in downtown Milford, this past Saturday, July 30, 2016, as the Center’s lease ended Sunday, July 31, 2016.  A final attempt was made Friday to reach an agreement with the property owners, Greater Milford Development LLC, which was refused.  “The families that frequented Milford’s downtown are the real losers,” stated Mrs. Carmen Kemper, Center Owner.  She continued with, “Their children were active, in a safe environment, and their parents could shop and eat at local restaurants in the downtown area, with the knowledge Mrs. Carmen was looking after them and they were having fun.  Now their activity is closed and must travel outside of the city for weekly family-oriented entertainment such as the city of Dover, 25 minutes away.  It is disappointing we could not continue to serve the families,” stated Mrs. Kemper.

After 2 verbal communications and 2 written communications with Dennis Silicato of Silicato Commercial Development as managing partner of property owner Greater Milford Development LLC an agreement could not be reached. The first five year lease contained a provision for an additional 5 years if Mrs. Kemper wanted to renew her lease at market rent.  Mr. Silicato communicated that he had not received the letter of request for renewal; however, Mrs. Kemper provided to her lawyer a copy of her lease payment and water bill letter that she notated the date she hand delivered the payment and the letter of request to his office, (as prescribed as an option in renewing the lease). Her  computer file also shows the date of the creation of the letter and no “modification” date.  “I contacted the office and spoke with the person I usually give my payments to and asked if she remembered  me hand delivering the check with the letter of renewal request in late January and asking in late February if there was any new updates for a lease extension and she verbally said yes over the phone. After the phone conversation with Mr. Silicato in which he verbally stated other plans for the building and why, while naming the city, the mayor, a local businessman, and two local non-profits, Mrs. Kemper determined she need to inform her customers the Center may be closing. “My brother and Business Manager, Charles Gray, wrote a blog to communicate the dire strates the skating center was facing.  The blog reached over 50,000 views on social media with several hundred comments.  All parties, with the exclusion of one, Downtown Milford, Inc., publicly stated they had not confirmed any plans with the developer for the skating center site.  The city also explained they do not interfere with tenant/owner issues.

Mr. Silicato accepted a one month extended lease and offered a new lease via email,  July 19, 2016 with a market rate of $11.16 per square foot or $178,560 per year with a 2% increase yearly to remain in the building.  Mrs. Kemper stated her lease for the last five years was at $42,000 per year.  “We expected a rate increase, but certainly not at more than four (4) times the current rate,” explained Mrs. Kemper.  Market rate can be determined by the property owner and as Mr. Silicato provided in the email, this is the rate Davis Bowen and Freidel were currently paying for their space operating as professional offices in the same building located opposite the skating floor wall.  Mrs. Kemper further explained, “With an increase of more than $136,000 the first year and 2% more each additional year, I thought I would try to reason with Mr. Silicato and offered a different rate increased based upon the use of the property as a skating center, which he refused July 29, 2016. The business would not survive.  With a very heavy heart, I had to decide the business must move on,  and find a better partnership,” explained Mrs. Kemper.

According to Mr. Gray, at the conclusion of her last session in the afternoon of Saturday, July 30, 2016, Mrs. Kemper, her family and close friends began to dismantle the skating center.  “With the countless hours and constant moving of equipment and supplies, borrowing trailers and stuffing vehicles, we were able to remove everything but the leased items from Pepsi and the video games by Sunday evening. 4 generations assisted with the move, and one family celebrated a birthday on Sunday with cupcakes as the official last party to be held at the skating center.  The remaining items were removed Monday.  The key to the facility will be returned Wednesday morning.  We could not remove the skating floor in the time allotted and it is a huge loss for her personally and for the community as a whole for the many children, adults, derby girls, school and church groups and families, 20,000 annually, that frequented the center,” Mr. Gray further explained. “We did try and kept a few pieces, but the floor remains intact. We had a very short timeline to adhere to and everyone’s hard work made it happen.  We will be forever indebted to their passion for Milford Skating Center.”

In an effort to assist Mrs. Kemper, the Mayor, Bryan Shupe and City Planner met with Mrs. Kemper and Mr. Gray to discuss necessary prerequisites of a different location and a discussion of options from fee assistance to reaching out to current in-city property owners that may have opportunities available for a relocate or new build.  “At this point it is only a discussion with no guarantees,” stated Mr. Gray.  A skating center requires a large span of open space with very few poles. “The first thing as we look at vacant buildings, is to see if poles can be removed without affecting the integrity of the roofing system.  If we cannot remove poles, the building is not acceptable,” stated Mr. Gray. “This is also an expense that may or may not be covered by the property owner if considering a building lease option.”

#Savemilfordskate at http://www.plumfund.com, an online fundraising site has been created to help defray the cost of moving/creating a new center as time moves forward.   Mrs. Kemper said.  “I am asking the community to assist as the move, legal counsel fees and future re-establishment has been and will be costly.”  Mrs. Kemper has begun looking at different options in and outside the City of Milford. “It is important to find a business conducive site with little renovation necessary or to build from ground up, neither investment I was prepared to take on.  Partnerships are a consideration and building on purchased land and not leased is the important lesson I take away from being located in the previous building located in downtown Milford. I have also learned the amazing support that was out there for the children with parents and grandparents of all ages signing a petition, calling and emailing the city officials, to viewing our posts (more than 50,000 views since the first post).”  Mr. Gray stated, “updates to fundraising efforts would be available on their Facebook page at Milford Skating Center.  A new location will take design, planning and moving of everything again.”  Mrs. Kemper said, “It’s not going to be easy, but I am going to try and find the right location and right partners to allow the families to roll again.  The Milford Skating Center was opened in 1982 as a family-friendly entertainment site in downtown Milford and survived 35 years while bringing foot traffic to downtown Milford week in and week out. It is now closed but will be forever in the hearts of the thousands of families we served.”

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Follow the Master Plan!

It was an awesome turn out Saturday. Thank you so much for so many smiles, hugs and yes, even the tears. On the surface the argument made is your lease is up and not getting renewed.  Under the surface this is about a community striving to be better, to offer choices, and be the city that represents its residents values for recreation and lifestyle.

Here is another way of looking at it…if you want foot traffic, don’t shoot the foot that has been bringing foot traffic for 35 years.  Milford Skating Center can move, just like any other business.  I get it.  While the rest of the country is trying to lower crime rates, change the habits of our youth so the obesity epidemic lessens, and bring families/visitors/foot traffic to their downtowns….where is Milford.  Another restaurant just announced they “will be” purchasing the bank.  Sometimes you want to have dinner and entertainment without the children…where could you be taking them…around the corner to Milford Skating Center…where you are just a walk away. Children enjoying an evening of fun while their parents enjoy a great meal in a walkable downtown.  Families are already doing this with their children.  To think the skating center will be replaced with office space, seems awful selfish of adults.  Who is speaking for the children…well it should be the adults.

A well rounded downtown is what everyone dreams about, something for everyone to participate in/ enjoy/ and want to come back to time and again.  That is why #skating matters.  I know legally the city cannot decide what the building owner does, but as representatives of the residents and of their own plan for revitalization, their words, influence, and partnerships should surely see the benefits of the skating center remaining outweighs the desire for more offices downtown…or are they willing to sacrifice a family’s option for recreation and the foot traffic and the add-on dollars when the children are dropped off  and a minority owned business that was established 35 years in the same location… for more office space.   More than 20,000 visitors/skaters/residents a year, come through the doors, park downtown, enjoy and make memories as a family in Milford Skating Center.  Average price $5 per visit, for 35 years, invested in jobs for youth, invested in recreation for youth, invested in seniors and exercise enthusiasts.  What does the office space have that we don’t, higher rent opportunity, services the city can use, more jobs, less foot traffic?  #skating matters for today’s youth and tomorrow’s youth just as much as it has for the youth the past 35 years.

Just a few months ago, the City of Milford, led by Mayor Bryan Shupe, adopted a revitalization plan presented by a firm of which was paid to assemble the community and create a vision, a master plan.   In that plan, Milford Skating Center and Park Avenue were mentioned.  A façade change, not a repurposing of the building.  The architectural and design firm, Davis Bowen & Friedel were also mentioned, referred to as DBF.  The use of the building was suggested to create retail on the front of the building.  As you know to remove office space means less office space…unless there is more room in the same building….the Milford Skating Center.  Clearly, this cannot happen. It is more than just space and a lease it is our children’s safe place, fun place, our grandparents safe place to walk, our Moms and Dads fun place to exercise, it is a physical activity for the whole family and a recreational option not available everywhere.

This is the email sent today to city officials regarding the current matter:

Save Milford Skating Center!

Dear City Manager, Mayor and City Council Members:

I am writing to ask for your support of a locally owned business that is loosing its lease.  This minority owned business is located in the heart of downtown.  The very downtown you are trying to revitalize.  The very downtown you want to attract more foot traffic to for more revenue and investment.  This center also services our children’s need for recreation options already severely limited in the city. It also serves as a safe place to walk for our seniors and an exercise venue for the latest craze.  The center also hosts roller derby bouts, a fun and exciting sport on roller skates.

A few months ago you adopted a plan that specifically named Milford Skating Center as needing a façade change only.  Pay close attention to pages 23, 28 and 29.  Now the building owner does not want to renew the lease as prescribed in the lease for an additional five years.  Your Master Plan will no longer exist and at the expense of the children and families of all shapes, sizes, and cultural backgrounds in Milford AND surrounding communities.

Save Milford Skating Center!  Your Master Plan included Milford Skating Center!  #skating matters  A friend of Milford Skating Center began a petition that has amassed over 1,200 signatures noting the community is in favor of saving Milford Skating Center.

Please write a letter of support for Milford Skating Center and forward to Silicato Development  at   dennis@silicatodevelopment.com     We want Davis Bowen & Friedel to stay in the City …but not by shutting down the skating center downtown.  Please offer assistance to Davis, Bowen & Freidel to relocate in a more suitable location like the old fire house which currently is renovated for office space and is at the end of the street that is still encompassed in the Master Plan.

Thank you,

Many of you were asking for contact information.  The City of Milford adopted the Downtown Revitalization Master Plan in April.  Silicato Development owns the building.

Here is what we could find on their websites:

Silicato Development, Dennis Silicato,  dennis@silicatodevelopment.com

City Manager, Eric Norenberg

City of Milford Mayor, Bryan Shupe

enorenberg@milford-de.gov

mayor@milford-de.gov

Arthur J. Campbell                                                   Ward One        acampbell@milford-de.gov

Christopher H. Mergner                                        Ward One       cmergner@milford-de.gov

James F. Burk                                                            Ward Two        JBurk@milford-de.gov

Lisa Ingram Peel                                                     Ward Two        lpeel@milford-de.gov

Owen S. Brooks Jr.                                                  Ward Three     obrooks@milford-de.gov

Douglas E. Morrow Sr., Vice Mayor                   Ward Three     dmorrow@milford-de.gov

James O. Starling Sr.                                              Ward Four        jstarling@milford-de.gov

Katrina E. Wilson                                                     Ward Four      kwilson@milford-de.gov

We do celebrate every stride the Mayor and City Council are making to make Milford better; however, #skating matters too.

Skating Center Closing?

We have been hearing rumors for three months now.  We have tried to get answers…well we can now confirm 6 months later…we may close due to the City of Milford’s appetite for change.  I guess since they can’t attract new businesses for residents to work and live in the same city, they are trying to keep one business downtown at the expense of the Milford Skating Center.  Will they reconsider?  Not sure…can you help us, definitely.

Here are the facts as we have been told by our building owner:

  • Who is part of the discussion
    •  City of Milford, City Manager Eric Norenberg
    • City of Milford, Mayor Bryan Shupe
    • Downtown Milford, Executive Director Lee Nelson
    • Marvel Agency, Randy Marvel
    • Silicato Development, Dennis Silicato
    • Davis Bowen & Friedel
      • Delaware Music School
  • Who is NOT part of the discussion
    • Carmen Kemper, Owner Milford Skating Center
  • What’s at Stake
    • MILFORD SKATING CENTER
      • REMOVING a downtown icon, 30 year minority-owned family business
      • REMOVING a family-friendly entertainment AND recreation choice from the city (one of only two family choices)
      • REMOVING job opportunities for young adults
      • REMOVING fundraising opportunities for school groups, civic groups, and more
      • REMOVING a reward from up to 5 school districts
      • REMOVING an autistic child’s safe haven and educational experience for group interaction and social skills
      • REMOVING a home for a well respected roller derby club that has attracted attendees and teams from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey
      • REMOVING the livelihood of a Milford Family
      • REMOVING a safe place for parents to leave their children so they may frequent Milford restaurants and entertainment venues
      • REMOVING a social experience for children not playing other sports, or those that cannot afford traveling team sports
      • REMOVING a business that has supported this community for more than thirty years through various donations AND the Milford Community Parade (which thousands of dollars have been raised through the years at fundraisers at the rink and pre and post meeting site for committee)
      • REMOVING a business that opens its door for every community downtown event and provides free admission for all to enjoy…who else in this equation has opened their doors for vendors and visitors to use the restrooms during these events?
    • DAVIS BOWEN & FREDIEL
      • overcrowded in their current location which is adjoined in same building as the skating center, so much they have leased space across Walnut Street
      • want to expand into rink space to keep all staff in one location and not separated by a road
      • staff frequents local restaurants with clientele
  • What’s the question?
    • Does SKATING MATTER, yes, SKATING MATTERS
      • We want Davis Bowen and Friedel to stay in town, BUT NOT AT THE SKATING CENTER’S EXPENSE
      • We want Downtown Milford to succeed, we are proof a business can thrive downtown.
    • Which is easier to move?  Office space or a skating center? OFFICE SPACE
      • MILFORD SKATING CENTER is a “Mom & Pop” business, one location.
      • Davis Bowen & Friedel has offices in Milford AND Salisbury, in fact Silicato Development just renovated office space, DBF just moved into with their main office and advertised they had additional space available in the building for third parties to lease.
    • Why is the City pushing?
      • DBF performs most services to the City of Milford, which translating is the City pays for DBF for their services on a regular basis?
      • DBF wants their offices in one location or they are leaving Downtown?
      • The building owner won’t do anything to the building unless he receives help?
  • What is the solution?
    • City of Milford works with current owner of the vacant fire hall on Church Avenue to move Davis Bowen and Friedel into office space previously used by the state for social / family services
    • City of Milford assists the owner of the building currently housing the Milford Skating Center to give it a more modern look.
  • WHAT CAN YOU DO?
    • Do you know any of the parties involved?
      • ask them to reconsider and that SKATING MATTERS, after all if the skating center is forced to move, Milford will only have one choice for family entertainment weekly and that is the bowling lanes, a fine establishment…but not everyone bowls every weekend.
      • ask them why would they sacrifice a thriving minority owned business for another professional business
      • ask them if Downtown Milford is part of the National and Delaware Mainstreet Program, how does creating more office space improve the entertainment value of downtown…how many restaurant bars are there?
      • ask them why they would REMOVE a business that keeps children off the streets, and provides a quality of life factor to the city neither Davis, Bowen and Friedel or the Delaware Music School can provide on a weekly basis

Speak up SKATING MATTERS, this skating center may be the only one in the country located in a Downtown area and once it is gone it is gone.

SKATING MATTERS, to Milford’s families AND all over Sussex and Kent County.  Here are a few of the groups that have frequented the Milford Skating Center.  Why reading, remember each person/family visiting is coming from somewhere…not just Milford; but, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and beyond. Each bring their dollars into downtown, and each has a potential for searching outside the rink doors and experiencing downtown Milford:

  • Milford/Lake Forest/Cape Henlopen/Woodbridge School Districts
  • After school skating program students from 3 Milford elementary schools weekly
  • Roller Derby – Southern Delaware Roller Girls
  • Boy Scouts / Girl Scouts
  • Service Organizations such as Autism, Relay For Life, Diabetes Association
  • Daycares all over Sussex and Kent Counties
  • Exercise and Zumba enthusiasts
  • Ball Room Dancers
  • Senior Citizens for Dry Strides
  • Positive behavior programs for students
  • District PTO/PTA/PTP associations

SKATING MATTERS, their intentions may have been originally for good cause; however, with common sense, someone has to speak up and make our leaders aware that Milford Skating Center Matters and it should not be closed.

What will they say…(possible responses)

“its business, don’t take it personally”, –you are closing a business down, that’s personal when it is someone livelihood

“Their lease was up and we decided not to renew”, —a lease that had a five year renewal option

“we gave them plenty of time to find a new place”,—a phone call received on Friday, June 17, and a lease that runs out June 30, 2016….after receiving first notice from skating center wanting to renew in November 2015, followed by a mailed letter of request January 2016. That is no time at all.

“We didn’t tell them they would be out June 30th”, —that is correct, but will be operating without a secure lease and were told the City may not have the money until October for renovations, also heard that DBF was going to break through the wall after July Fourth holiday.

“Our concern is with DBF, not the Milford Skating Center”,—30 years the Downtown Milford Skating Center has served families of all ages, sizes and ethnic backgrounds with a venue that was safe, economical for all, and been apart of the community.  It should not be which business is more valuable, it should be how do we make room for both.

“DBF is already in part of the building so we shouldn’t make them move”, —really, re locate to the fire hall building and string your lights across the street where you also have a bakery, cooking school and more parking close by.

I think the most disappointing aspect of this whole thing is that SKATING MATTERS, the little gal is getting squashed because of a city’s desire for change, a Mayor’s desire to make a name for himself at anyone’s expense…by the way, did you know the Mayor leases business space from Silicato Development and has his own blog paper to focus his message on what he wants to see change?  The owner of the skating center was not included in the discussions because they knew she would not approve.  Also, the City received monies from the state to have a consultant come in and present the idea of change to the public and referred to the skating center as a blue box…it is called building consensus in the community of something they wouldn’t want to do but the city wants to do anyway.

Please use #SKATING MATTERS  with your responses on social media.  Use your page, your account to get the word out that this action needs to be reconsidered and the Milford Skating Center needs to be saved…SKATINGMATTERS! Do it now, time is not on our side.  We don’t want to leave Downtown!

 

Why?

Here we are.  You, me and the world.  It is not good enough to just read, you must empower yourself to make positive change.  Here is change, positive change.  When change happens, it should be positive, when it is not, you must speak up.