History versus pharmacy

| 29 Sep 2011 | 09:47

MILFORD - Growth and preservation may be heading for a showdown in downtown Milford. Rite-Aid Corporation officials say they want to expand their Milford store, at the corner of Broad and Harford streets, to better provide services and reflect their national corporate image. The store would occupy the fourth corner at the borough’s center, joining the Dimmick Inn, Forest Hall and the Community House - an area which borough officials refer to as “the anchor” of Milford’s historic district. The plan would require demolition of the exiting 7,000-square-foot store, and two neighboring 19th century homes at 110 and 106 Broad Street. Project Manager Mark Heeb of BL Engineering of Harrisburg presented preliminary plans Monday before the borough’s architectural review board. Rather than the typical Rite-Aid building, Heeb said the new structure, expected to be 11,000 square feet or larger in size, would reflect some of the neighboring structures, using red and gold brick, “materials not normally used,” with a variety of architectural details. Retail and pharmacy would be separate in the new building, and additional parking and a drive-through pharmacy window would be added. Solicited for comments by Heeb, Board Vice-Chairman Kevin Stroyan said the project would likely face more hurdles gaining a demolition permit than in getting approval for the new design. Heeb argued that the existing store was not historic by federal standards, but was told that the borough has two historic districts, one governed by local ordinance, and not limited to the federal standards, said Secretary Liz Samuelson. “It doesn’t matter (if it’s historic), it’s in the district,” said code enforcement officer Duane Kuhn. The Rite-Aid store, formerly a Grand Union supermarket, was built after a 1960 fire which destroyed the historic Chrissman House Hotel, said former Mayor Randolph Gregory. Gregory, who owns the two buildings that would be demolished for the pharmacy expansion, declined comment on the Rite-Aid plan. Stroyan conceded that other buildings in the historic district have been demolished over the years, after agreement that they were beyond repair. “That isn’t the case here. Mr. Gregory has maintained these buildings well.” Board member Don Quick warned that public opinion would view the new construction as urban sprawl, especially at the borough’s center, which he called “the anchor” of the historic district. Quick suggested that to allow the demolition of serviceable buildings would create a precedent that would make it difficult to preserve other historic buildings in Milford. “We’ve gone to considerable trouble. Would any new structure fit in?” Heeb asked. Stroyan suggested that attorney John Klemeyer, who represents the project and the borough, and who had abstained himself, could point out people locally who would have questions about the project, while they prepare their formal plans. Developer Richard Dreher said the plan reflected the corporate direction for Rite-Aid’s 3,400 stores. Recalling similar efforts by Turkey Hill, Quick replied that other franchise developers have tried the “corporate” argument in Milford and failed.