Focused Discussion #5 Choose Your Future: Enhancing the Revitalization of Downtown Gardiner H&S and Comprehensive Plan

The Comprehensive Plan Committee and the Heart & Soul Community Action Team hosted a focused discussion on May 30th to solicit ideas for what the community and City can do to encourage the continued revitalization of the Downtown area. The discussion was held outdoors in the mini-park on Water Street adjacent to Johnson Hall. A core group of about 45 people participated in the entire discussion while another ten or so people “wandered in” from Water Street and participated in part of the discussion. Many of the participants were people who had not been previously active in the H&S process including some downtown business and property owners and a number of downtown residents. The event opened with brief overviews of the purpose of the focused discussion and the H&S process including the draft Community Vision. This was followed by a presentation by Patrick Wright, the Executive Director of Gardiner Main Street who reviewed the Main Street program, current activities, and issues identified by the group. Participants were then asked to share their ideas for what the City and community can do to continue and enhance the revitalization of the Downtown. People’s ideas and comments were recorded on a flip chart and are reported below:

May 30, 2013
  • Consider converting Water Street back to two-way traffic
  • There are examples of three different downtown traffic patterns
    • Hallowell has two-way traffic
    • Rockland that has experienced a revitalization has one way traffic
    • Church Street in Burlington, VT is a pedestrian mall
  • MeDOT did too good of a job of getting traffic through Gardiner when it built the new bridge
  • Downtown businesses are dependent on foot traffic – we should try making Water Street pedestrian only
  • Need to work on making DT more pedestrian friendly
  • Parking is an issue – it has to be part of the answer!  If on-street parking is lost where are people going to park – private lots are not well used
  • Rather than using any funds for making Water Street two-way, use the money to build a parking garage
  • Concerned that DT does not have enough businesses yet to be a draw – not enough of first floor space is being used for retail
  • Better to use money for things like Johnson Hall – bring energy to the downtown
  • Foot traffic – hard for businesses – need ways to bring people in here – plan events such as flower shows and fashion shows
  • Encourage more businesses that focus on local products
  • People don’t know what’s here – advertise what’s in DT
  • Problem with periodic flooding of the Arcade parking lot – can it be raised to address flooding?
  • Offer dining in the park
  • Focus on developing space on second and third floors for professionals and offices – but need parking for them
  • The challenge is parking
  • Go beyond Bailey’s and make a turn around so you don’t have to go all the way to South Gardiner
  • Look at Mechanic Street for creating more parking
  • Need action not more studies
  • Could the Arcade parking lot be double-decked to provide more parking?
  • Augusta has a parking deck built into a slope that uses the topography – is this possible for Mechanic Street?
  • Encourage local residents to come downtown on foot so the parking is aved for others
  • Walk around and think about what is our downtown – need to create connections to other parts of the City – Maine Avenue, the Cobbossee Corridor, the waterfront
  • Look at another use for the City Hall parking lot
  • Use UMA architecture students to look at the reuse of the City Hall parcel and possibilities for a new location for City Hall
  • Need to create a BUZZ – we have two “drop-dead” blocks – use them as the foundation
  • Reduce Water Street to one travel land with wider sidewalks
  • Develop a partnership with UMA – the Art and Music Departments to bring activity to DT
  • Extend the railtrail into DT – thru the Hannaford parking lot and the Arcade lot up to the Cobbossee
  • Tie the Cobbossee Corridor (Gardiner’s hidden wilderness) to Downtown
  • Develop a local food coop as an alternative
  • There is nothing that connects the two blocks of Downtown to other things – need to get people to turn the corner – connection to the river
  • Making connections – signage is a huge issue – need to let people know where parking is
  • Establish a farmers market or other market in the riverfront park
  • Concerned about vandalism in the riverfront park – should connect the railtrail to the waterfront – need things for people to do in the riverfront park
  • Think about the underserved population – need to work to get seniors downtown – possibly a source of volunteers
  • Senior discounts – senior nights out in DT
  • Explore the Villages program for providing assistance to seniors
  • We value Reny’s – build off what we have
  • Businesses -à Customers à Parking
  • Promote/explain consignment shops – that they give back to the community – focus on locally made products
  • Parking is an issue – needs to be within a couple hundred feet of businesses
  • We have so little time with nice weather – example of Augusta Arcade walkway – should consider covered walkways so people can use the street in the spring and the fall
  • Business contributions to installing a directory sign at the corner – explore other collective activities
  • Need to provide better accommodations to keep people outside longer – example of seat covers and shawls in Norway
  • Need more businesses/attractions – more first floor retail uses
  • Mortabella did well – need to find and encourage “quirky” business that will draw people from away
  • Need variety – connectedness – example of Portland
  • Capitalize on the historical value – strong sense of place – a bridge between the generations
  • Keene NH orienteering example
  • The pool hall – can it be re-opened
  • Project Pop-Up was a success – a way to get people here
  • Parking will remain an issue over time
  • Need to improve the connection to the waterfront – improved signage – better access
  • Create a public market DT with food vendors – possibly the railroad station or old pool hall or the feed store
  • With this level of energy we can do it – just need to channel it
  • Have more music in DT – at the gazebo or here in the mini-park
  • Art Walk was a success – the streets were full of people and if you get them here they will come back – use arts and music to attract them to DT
  • Does the extension of the railtrail go through the Arcade parking lot?
  • There is the possibility of a “safe-routes-to-school” trail along the Cobbossee
  • Expand the Kennebec Explorer service
  • Slowly transition Water Street into a meandering street – look at partial closure – the full day closure of the street to cars – do one day trials
  • Need better access to the upper floors of buildings – possibility of shared elevator
  • Clean up the backs of the buildings that face the Arcade Lot – improve the entrance from the lot
  • The design of the railtrail extension needs to be changed
  • The railtrail is an asset that needs to be extended into DT
  • There is a need/demand for nice apartments – with a washer and dryer – focus on who lives here
  • For the trail – MeDOT will allow a boardwalk on top of the railroad tracks