Efforts to revitalize Milford's downtown are finally paying off as North and South Walnut Street was named by the American Planning Association as one of the nation's Top 10 Great Streets in America on Oct. 4.

Empty storefronts downtown are filling up.

Downtown Milford Inc. volunteers are keeping the blooms alive.

And year-long efforts to revitalize Milford's downtown are finally paying off as North and South Walnut Street was named by the American Planning Association as one of the nation's Top 10 Great Streets in America on Oct. 4.

The designation is part of the APA's annual Great Places in America program, which identifies 30 outstanding neighborhoods, streets and public spaces throughout the country based on how community involvement and planning adds value to communities and local economic growth.

APA Public Affairs Coordinator Denny Johnson said the APA is very selective when it reviews about 90 different places each year, and that each designated place must meet high standards in terms of community engagement and planning.

"One of things we found interesting was the community commitment [in Milford]. There's a lot of community participation and pride in their downtown," Johnson said. "There's a working cooperation there to generate interest and tourism."

Milford's Walnut Street placed in the Top-Ten Great Streets alongside other locations including Honolulu, Las Vegas and Philadelphia.

"It's nice to see national recognition. We're one of the 10 best streets in the U.S.," said Downtown Milford Inc. Executive Director Lee Nelson. "There're a lot of streets in the U.S. and to be in the same league as Honolulu and Philly, that's quite some company to have."

Milford's North and South Walnut Street was singled out for a variety of reasons from historic architecture to $2.2 million in private and public renovations that have taken power lines below ground, improved streets and sidewalks and established the Mispillion River walkway.

According to the APA's press release regarding the designation, such public spaces and attributes play a role in adding value to communities by fostering economic growth and jobs and attracting new residents.

City Manager Richard Carmean said that a national shift in focus to revitalize main streets and downtown areas has helped Milford take advantage of its history and location along the Mispillion River.

"I'm really pleased that this whole kind of running away from downtown areas has turned around and people are running towards it and seeing the importance," Carmean said. "An investment in downtown is an investment in all properties, whether it's a business outside of downtown or a residential property."

The combination of financial investment and community involvement, as well as cooperation between the city and Downtown Milford, Inc., is what DEDO's Downtown Delaware State Coordinator Diane Laird pointed out as key factors in Walnut Street's recent recognition.

"Downtown Milford Inc. has worked very closely with the City of Milford and a broad range of downtown stakeholders to enhance the retail, services, historical, arts and cultural amenities of the business district, as well as improve the downtown infrastructure and overall aesthetics," Laird said. "Public/private partnership that portrays such a high level of both philosophical and financial support is truly a model for the most successful Main Street programs. Volunteerism with DMI has been consistent and truly remarkable, with 5,258 hours invested by volunteers last year alone, valued at $120,934."

Milford City Planner Gary Norris and Downtown Milford, Inc. worked on submitting the application to the APA for this designation, and Norris said it's also the culmination of residential and business community, along with architecture and activities that set Walnut Street apart.

"All of the activities, like the Eat in the Street and the Bug & Bud Festival, as well as the riverwalk, make Walnut Street a great street," Norris said. "It's the pulse and the heart of Milford."

Milford will officially recognize the certificate during its next regular city council meeting on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m.