CAMDEN, Maine — The effort to come up with a master plan to keep the downtown a vibrant place is in high gear.
A public hearing was held last month to update residents and gather comments, an online survey is ongoing and a final public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 14. The goal is to have the consultants working with the town present the master plan by the end of next month.
Camden Development Director Brian Hodges said he is pleased with the amount of interest in development of the plan. There were 80 people who turned out for the first public session on Jan. 26.
The aim of the development of the master plan is to create a downtown that fosters economic development and job creation. Last year, the town contracted with the Lachman Group for $20,000 to assist in developing the plan. The group consists of Denis Lachman of Lachman Architects & Planners of Portland; former Rockland Community Development Director Rodney Lynch; Mike Sabatini of Landmark Corporation Surveyors and Engineers of Rockport and Regina Leonard, a landscape architect of Topsham.
Issues raised in the first public meeting were parking, making the downtown more pedestrian friendly, attracting more people to live in the community year-round and having more things to do downtown at night and for the four seasons.
Interviews done by Lynch also found that economic development issues facing the town were the need to find more off-Main Street parking and the need for a parking garage, improving signage to have people go along the side streets of Main and Elm streets, integrating the Knox Mill area into the downtown and integrating the Megunticook River Walk into the downtown.
Challenges that the downtown face are the perception of a parking shortage, older buildings with high maintenance costs, competition from other towns that have lower rents, a lack of office space wired with modern technology and the need to attract more younger people by offering more nighttime activities.
Among the proposals to improve the downtown are getting a theater back to provide an evening activity and better lighting.
An online survey is now available at https://surveymonkey.com/s/CamdenDowntownMasterPlan
The questions on the survey ask about downtown parking, the need for a parking garage and whether parking should be allowed at the public landing.
The survey also asks about whether having a movie theater downtown is an important goal.
The survey asks what type of new business is needed downtown and whether the town should relocate the town offices from their current location on the street level of the Opera House building but still within walking distance of downtown to free up the space for businesses.
The town is accepting online surveys through March 7. Paper versions are also available at the town office but must be filed with the town by March 2 to be included in the results. Hodges noted that the Camden Public Library has computers available for use by people who do not have an online computer at home.
The second community meeting on the downtown master plan is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 14, at the Waterfalls Event Center located at the Knox Mill complex.