Mayor Kenneth Branner believes Middletown’s continued appeal is based on its commitment to maintaining hometown feel, in spite of what is one of the fastest-growing regions in the state. Pop Warner Football is still a big, big deal here, and nowhere else is there such a hometown celebration as the Hummers Parade, a local spoof of Philadelphia’s famous Mummers, on New Year’s Day.
“Our planning and zoning officials are committed to expanding our retail and commercial base in the traditional model that includes adequate setbacks, no parking lots abutting major roads and no big box outlets in the center of town,” Branner says.
Indeed, those types of commercial developments exist, but mostly along the U.S. 301 corridor on Middletown’s western edge. In the town center, the large, well-maintained stock of Victorian homes is bordered by Main Street improvements that include buried utility lines and other streetscape initiatives. The historic Everett Theatre is home to children’s arts programs, movies, concerts and other events. The Gilbert W. Perry Jr. Center for the Arts—“The Gibby,” as it’s called—also offers a busy program of concerts and shows.
Robert Wittig, who moved to Middletown with his family 14 years ago from Newark, has been most impressed with the quality of the school system that boasts two modern high school campuses—Middletown High School and the new Appoquinimink High School. Appoquinimink District schools are, in fact, the best in the state, so they draw new residents to the area from far and wide.
“Middletown is very much geared to youth and youth programs,” says Wittig. “There’s a lot of open space here to support activities, and there’s a lot of pride among our youth in those two high schools.”