BANGOR, Maine — Like many of her neighbors and fellow Main Street corridor residents, Nancy Dymond was apprehensive when she attended her first Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy Area Plan public meeting.
But like most of the 33 attendees at Thursday evening’s third neighborhood meeting at the Doughty School auditorium, she left feeling enthused and optimistic.
“It was fear of the unknown. We’ve heard different things over the years,” said Dymond, referring to her early skepticism. “But we’ve been kept up to date with these meetings and emails and they’re asking us to give them our thoughts and complaints and suggestions, and so we’re saying, ‘OK, they’re really serious about this and they really do want to partner with us,’ so now it’s really exciting.”
Dymond grew up in her current Walter Street neighborhood and moved away to live in Boston and Washington, D.C., for about 10 years before moving back in 1990. She moved into the house she grew up in, along with her brother, to help take care of her father.
“There’s been a lot of change the last 10 to 20 years. Well, a lot of people like my dad, when they got older, sold their homes because their families didn’t move in and because a lot of them are bigger homes, the buyers would subdivide them into apartments and over the years, some of them basically became slum landlord properties. And now the majority of the neighborhood is apartments.”
The ambitious project — which at four months along is still in its early stages — is focused on combining beautification with law enforcement and legal revisions, among other things, to address problems and revive a geographically significant city area bordering the waterfront.
“I see some positive things happening here and a lot of people have attended these meetings, [which] is encouraging,” Dymond said. “I don’t think people thought anyone would come, so this has been a good experience.”
The project’s goals include increasing safety, redeveloping properties and improving infrastructure in the neighborhood and business areas that make up the Main Street corridor space bordered by Main, Buck, Third and Union streets. All city departments are collaborating on the project.
“You have to move slow, even though we’ve done a lot in a short period of time, but it will take a long time to implement everything,” said Rosie Vanadestine, Bangor’s interim community and economic director.
Vanadestine said the next key dates and steps involve a formal presentation during a special public session open to the public in council chambers at Bangor City Hall on May 9. A formal presentation to the City Council is slated for May 14 and, if all goes well, the plan would then be presented to Housing and Urban Development for approval on May 15.
For this first year of the project, Vanadestine anticipates using an estimated $998,313 community development budget funded primarily by HUD entitlement grant money and repayment of loans made through the city’s Community Development Residential Property Rehabilitation and Business Development loan programs.
The public attendees weren’t the only ones noticing a difference in the atmosphere from the first public meeting to Thursday night’s.
“I think they are more accepting now and they seem more eager to hear what we’re going to be doing,” Vanadestine said of the people who not only attended Thursday, but also those who have offered their thoughts to city officials by phone and email. “I don’t find that it’s really critical or doubtful. There was a little bit of animosity at the beginning and I didn’t feel any of that tonight.”