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Maine Development Foundation

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'A look from the outside and a fresh perspective'

Foster's Daily Democrat - Shawn P. Sullivan

Date:

October 1st, 2009

Maine Downtown Center's resource team will make recommendations for downtown revitalization

SANFORD — A resource team from the Maine Downtown Center will give a presentation of their findings and recommendations on Thursday night regarding what Sanford needs to do to revitalize its downtown.

The public is encouraged to attend this Oct. 1 meeting, which will be held at the Sanford Town Hall from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

In June, the Maine Downtown Center awarded Sanford its prestigious Main Street Maine Community designation after the town submitted an application for the competitive distinction last winter. Through the designation, the town will be afforded additional resources for its revitalization efforts and will have more going for it when applying for related grants. A visit from a Maine Downtown Center resource team — which will help the town define solutions and methods for success — is one of the benefits of the designation.

The members of the team arrived in Sanford on Tuesday. The team is comprised of Kristen Cady, the program director for the Maine Development Foundation; Kathy La Plante, the program officer of the National Trust Main Street Center; Noreen Norton, of Eaton Peabody Consulting Group, LLC, of Augusta; Craig Freshley, of Good Group Decisions, of Brunswick; and Denis Lachman, of Lachman Architects and Planners, of Portland.

Together, the team represents four facets of revitalizing a downtown — design; promotion; organization; and economic restructuring.

The team members began their visit by accompanying members of Sanford Downtown Legacy on a drive through Sanford, from as far out as the local airport to the YMCA and other points. Sanford Downtown Legacy is the panel of town officials, businesspeople, artists and other volunteers that is leading and supervising efforts to transform the downtown into a commercial, residential and cultural hub.

After the tour, the team gathered with Lee Burnett, the town's grant writer and a member of Sanford Downtown Legacy, at The Townhouse on Main Street to look at a map of where they traveled. Afterward, they took a walking tour through downtown Sanford.

Maura Herlihy, the president of Sanford Downtown Legacy and a town councilor, led the tour, which Burnett and Sanford Downtown Legacy board member Stephanie Wilkins joined.

The tour began at the Townhouse, proceeded down St. Ignatius Street, turned into the Midtown Mall and continued down Main Street to such businesses as Bergeron's Shoes.

At each point of the walk, Herlihy, Burnett and Wilkins provided a mix of history and hopes for what can be done with the current state of various sites. Herlihy pointed out the large, square lawn on St. Ignatius Street where Central School once stood between St. Ignatius Church's rectory and convent; she also told the team members that Mechanic Street once passed right along the front of the Midtown Mall where they stood.

Herlihy, Burnett and Wilkins also expressed to the team members the town's hopes of improving the appearance of the Midtown Mall, particularly the staircase in the center that has its share of cracked concrete and graffiti. Bringing about such change will be a delicate balancing act; the town owns the Midtown Mall's parking lot, but the commercial space itself is privately owned.

The group stopped in front of Sanford Institution for Savings on Main Street and looked to the currently vacant office space above Shaw's Hardware. That's where Sanford Downtown Legacy will have its headquarters once volunteers are finished cleaning up the space and touching it up with some paint.

One of the resource team members pointed out that such visible Main Street frontage is important for an organization like Sanford Downtown Legacy to succeed.

Throughout the tour, the team members asked questions, took notes and snapped pictures, all for the purpose of helping them with the evaluation of the town.

Later on Tuesday, the team met members of the local government, business community and service organizations during a reception at The Town Club on the top floor of the Sanford Trust Building.

On Wednesday, the team was expected to conduct interviews with groups representing Sanford's municipal government, financial institutions, retailers, business owners, civic organizations and the Chamber of Commerce.

Herlihy said the team's visit is providing the people of Sanford with a "look from the outside and a fresh perspective" that will offer a guide toward the future and away from potential obstacles during the revitalization efforts.

Thursday night's presentation will be aired live on Metrocast Channel 12. During the presentation, the public will have an opportunity to ask questions and offer input, Herlihy said.

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