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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