A Bill for Maine’s Downtowns 

It’s being pitched as an economic stimulus plan for Maine’s downtowns.Lawmakers and local developers are getting behind a 27-million dollar investment proposal – with an eye toward Main Streets across the state.The plan builds “on the bricks and mortar of our old mill buildings, our downtowns, our riverfronts and storefronts, the traditional community corridors that have served as the cultural, social and economic lifeblood of the state of Maine,” says Maggie Drummond with GrowSmart Maine.Community developers and lawmakers say aging downtowns across the state are a wasted natural resource, which could be providing jobs and other opportunities.”This stimulus for Main Street is so extraordinarily important,” says Senate President Libby Mitchell. “As you look around the country, those communities that invested in their downtowns and their Main Streets have seen economic vibrancy. Maine is no different.”Supporters say the 25-million dollar bond would help municipalities – in partnership with private developers – fix buildings, sidewalks and public spaces.”Because once the downtowns deteriorate, people go to the shopping centers,” says Chris Glass, with Maine Preservation. “And we’ve seen places, like Rockland, where once it reverses, with people starting to invest in downtown, the business returns.”The bill also wants to help historic buildings in town – which might have turned into eyesores over time – through what they’re calling a revolving fund of two million dollars.”We would be able to provide money to buy distressed buildings and renovate them. Then, resell them so the money would go back to the bond and the building would go back toward the community,” says Glass.Supporters hope this bill for Maine’s downtowns doesn’t get lost in the bond package shuffle this session.”This is a great chance for the state to be able to put a little bit of money in and leverage a lot of private sector activity,” says John O’Dea, with Associated General Contractors of Maine. “This will have the effect of putting construction workers to work, companies to work, and rebuilding our downtowns.”