Like in many cities in Maine, members of the Calais community are working to make revitalization a reality.
“In the last few years, we’ve had some issues with the downtown, with strip mall development, and Wal-Mart, and some other big box development, Main Street has lost some business. Properties have become less valuable with less traffic and business owners haven’t necessarily maintained their buildings as well as they should,” said Jim Porter, Code Enforcement Officer and Assistant City Manager of Calais.
Help is on the way for existing buildings.
“Recently, we’ve received a grant through the Maine Department of Economic Development, a downtown revitalization grant.”
To get a portion of the $200,000 dollars, business owners need to match some of those funds.
“I was really excited, you know, because it provides some funds that don’t have to come right out of operating cash flow that can go to improving the outside of the building, which, it’s in dire need of some tender love and care,” said Tim Crowe, the owner of Jo’s Diner and Pizzeria.
Getting the funds comes as a sort of balance for officials trying to figure out the best way to breathe new life into the city.
“It’s been interesting, frustrating, but I feel we’re making progress . There’s a good group downtown called the Calais Downtown Revitalization Coalition that’s really encouraged us to apply for grants and they’ve been supportive. We feel we’re happy to be a part of that,” said Porter.
“We don’t always agree and it’s a work in progress. We’re learning how to work with each other, I think, and I have high hopes that we’re going to be able to accomplish something good for downtown,” said Alan Dwelley, city councilor.
City officials say the majority of building owners are applying for a piece of the grant.
Many hope this will attract others to this once thriving border city.
“Don’t look at the skin. Look at the bones and the soul inside this town, this could be a fabulous place to live,” said Anne Nixon, city councilor.
“It’s taken us some time, but I think we’ve finally gotten to the point where we’ve finally gotten some momentum and I believe from city officials to the business owners to the citizens, we’ve all come together and made it out common goal for a better downtown,” said Crowe.
The city has also received money to beautify the city with sidewalks, lamp posts, and new trees.