BREWER, Maine — A survey of 535 area residents drew comments that highlighted a need for the city to improve its Main Street corridor and attract a variety of businesses to the area.
Ron Cote of Auxilar LLC, who compiled the survey results and presented them to city councilors Tuesday, said they show a “tale of two cities.”
“It’s clear the city of Brewer is in a good position of growth,” he said. “It’s [also] clear the city has challenges.”
The survey results, which are available on the city’s Web site, brewerme.org, show that Brewer does not have a well-defined downtown and lacks centralized shopping and dining areas.
When asked what would bring them downtown, a summary of the responders answers said, “Add more non-fast food restaurants (68 percent), outlet stores (53 percent), a public market (52 percent), bookstores (45 percent) and live entertainment (40 percent) if you want to get me to shop more in Brewer.”
The survey shows that most of the responders, who are residents or who travel through Brewer on a daily basis, shop and eat at restaurants in Bangor.
“About 40 to 45 percent would prefer to shop in Brewer,” Cote said. “They see a lot of potential,” but choose Bangor because of easy access, parking and the variety of options in one area, mostly the Bangor Mall.
They list “development issues,” lack of options and problems with traffic and parking as reasons why they avoid shopping along the Main Street corridor in Brewer.
Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development specialist, said she learned a lot about what people think about the city and their shopping habits through the survey.
“We also heard a lot of very harsh and honest feedback about what our downtown area is lacking,” she said, and “what they’re looking for, why they’re not shopping or looking for services here.”
The survey will help as the city moves forward with improvements to the downtown, including traffic and riverfront improvements.
“All the hard work that has been done over the last 20 years to restore the river is something we want to highlight,” Pereira said. “People are looking for a way to get into touch with that.”
The survey was conducted online through the city’s Web site between Feb. 1 and April 15.
“This is a great instrument we have here,” City Councilor Michael Celli said after Cote’s presentation. “I equate this with our comprehensive plan. That [plan] turned this town around.”
Cote said the survey is a baseline that would be used by city leaders to guide improvements.
“We have a lot of areas that are really good … and areas that need some work,” he said.