June 25, 2018
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Machias revitalization group revamps itself

By Sharon Kiley Mack, BDN Staff

MACHIAS, Maine — When members of the Maine Downtown Center’s advisory board toured Machias in August, they had a bit of advice: You need to get up and do things, they told the Machias Downtown Revitalization Committee. Change will come in increments because it is a process, they advised, but change needs to be some-thing people can see.

Friday morning, the town’s revitalization committee began plans to revitalize itself — or at least become more visible within the community.

Several new faces were evident around the table, as committee members have been busy recruiting.

MDRC members Gail Peters and Kathleen Shannon said that over the past several years the committee has been extremely busy building a foundation and seeking grants to aid in that process.

But Shannon, who also is the director of the Machias Valley Chamber of Commerce, admitted that those efforts have not yet resulted in a tangible change that community members and potential developers can point to and say, “Look at the difference.”

A small but visible step was planned for this morning, when several MDRC members planted fall mums on a particularly unattractive traffic island downtown as a gesture.

Some of the group’s many but unseen projects include a downtown and riverfront master plan created with a small grant in 2009 by Coplon Associates of Bar Harbor.

The 17-page plan is a blueprint for future development, revitalization and beautification of downtown Machias, complete with price estimates for each step.

The report from the Maine Downtown Center is expected to be even more comprehensive and is expected to be available Monday.

“We’ve got plenty of ideas, but the problem is money,” Shannon said. “It comes down to money.”

The MDRC is not funded through the town budget so any funding must come from grants.

Some of the suggestions that the local committee has made include new signage for Overlook Park and Bad Little Falls, creating a historical district for promotional purposes, creating a town website, working with local high school and college students to create a map of town businesses, continuing to restore the boxcar, Station 98, which will be the future home of the Chamber of Commerce, and moving Margaretta Days and other festivals to the downtown area to become more visible to tourists.

Peters said the group will continue, with the help of town officials, to seek grants to build on Coplon’s suggestions, including creating a river walk behind the Main Street businesses that will link the historic O’Brien cemetery, the trails at the University of Maine at Machias and the Sunrise Trail.

The group said Town Manager Chris Loughlin, who was unable to attend Friday’s meeting, will submit a $150,000 grant application to the Maine Department of Economic Development that could be used to remove the cement sidewalk nodes on Main Street to allow for more parking, provide facade improvements and addi-tional landscaping.

The city of Ellsworth obtained the same grant earlier this year based on an assessment that its downtown was blighted.

“If its downtown is considered blighted, we would most certainly qualify for this grant,” Shannon said.

Shannon said a partnership between the town, the Chamber and UMM will continue this fall, using students at UMM for community service projects.

Recruitment of the town’s business and community leaders for the committee will continue, she said. Anyone who wants to participate is invited to the next MDRC meeting at 7 a.m. Friday, Nov. 12, at Helen’s Restaurant.

The meetings are at breakfast time to allow local business owners to attend.

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