Warehouse rehab approved

MILFORD – A bleak corner of downtown may get upgraded with the renovation of an old warehouse building on Cottage Street.

Last week, the Planning Board gave conditional approval to a site plan from Angel Communications of Merrimack that includes two buildings at 21 Cottage St. Plans call for the larger building, a former Fred Fuller Oil Co. warehouse, to become a dance studio and for the smaller one to be for offices and a warehouse.

The buildings are at the intersection of Cottage and Garden streets. "That will be a great improvement on that section of downtown," Vice Chairwoman Janet Langdell said after the board’s unanimous vote. Three years ago, the area was the focus of a two-day workshop, or "design charrette," in Milford. A team of planning and design professionals told residents and officials that despite its underutilized spaces and rundown buildings, the area could someday be an attractive part of town, especially if the old train station was renovated. Interest in the Garden Street-Cottage Street neighborhood was sparked by the Preservation Alliance of New Hampshire, which said the 19th-century freight house is one of the last of its kind in New England, and the nearby train station is key to rehabbing the area.

The two historic buildings are across the road from what will be the Angel Communications buildings. The Milford Police Station is nearby on Garden Street, and the Mill Street part of the Fletcher Superfund Site is across the railroad tracks. The plan still needs a special exception from the Zoning Board of Adjustment. At the March 22 Planning Board meeting, Chad Branon, of Fieldstone Land Consultants, said the state Department of Environmental Services has monitored wells on the property and there is no problem with the plan. Lincoln Daley, the town’s community development director, said later that the studio should bring "some needed energy into the area" and could result in a "domino effect in a very positive way." Plans call for a renovated facade and landscaping to soften the industrial look of the buildings. During the end of the 2013 charrette, the planners said the area could someday be home to an attractive mix of uses, including a farmers market, art studios, an antique coop, a commercial kitchen and maybe a museum honoring the railroad or the quarry industries. They said more walkways are needed to connect the area to attractive parts of town, especially Railroad Pond, and that the area has too much pavement, which confuses drivers and pedestrians.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.