Bangor has a lot going for it — a rejuvenating downtown and growing arts scene are drawing people and their money. But, like much of the rest of Maine, it is facing challenges as its population stagnates and businesses struggle to find workers.
To draw new residents, the city needs to up its profile as a great place to live.
One small piece of this puzzle is an effort dubbed Innovative Neighborhoods. The project, started by former mayor and current city council member Sean Faircloth, aims to build enthusiasm and support for ideas that will improve each of five Bangor neighborhoods and the city as a whole. The best ideas will be chosen through a panel of experts and an online poll. Winners will get awards and bragging rights; there are no funds dedicated to turning the ideas into reality.
It is not too late for Bangor residents to join this intriguing effort. Check out the Bangor Innovative Neighborhoods Facebook page to join your neighborhood group.
Neighborhood groups are finalizing their best ideas, one for their neighborhood and another for the city at large. These will be presented to the experts next month. The experts, from Bangor Savings Bank, Husson University and other entities, will suggest improvements and refinements, such as how the projects would be paid for or make money, to each group’s ideas. After this work, the refined ideas will be presented to the public this fall. Your input — and enthusiasm — would be welcome during this process.
Here are some of the ideas being worked on so far: An overhaul of the city-owned Sawyer Arena to include a second ice sheet, which could draw hockey tournaments. A bike lane along Buck Street, which is part of the East Coast Greenway, a bike and walking route that runs from Maine to Florida, to connect with the path along the Penobscot River. An art festival with performances on front porches throughout a neighborhood. A neighborhood lending library of power tools.
The project’s goal — to make Bangor the best small city in America — is ambitious, so the ideas must be as well.
Inspiration for the Bangor project came from many sources including a cross-country trip writer James Fallows and his wife made in a single-engine plane with stops in dozens of cities and small towns — including Eastport. Fallows put 54,000 miles on his plane and chronicled his trip in articles published by The Atlantic.
The innovators he met started a technical school in Mississippi to teach underskilled adults and high school students how to fix 3-D printers, robots and other machinery that now define high-tech manufacturing and started companies in Minnesota to make furniture and kitchenware from the scraps left over from the skateboard ramps they built. Small towns invested in art festivals and converted abandoned manufacturing plants into performance venues. Others focused on helping immigrants meld into their communities and schools.
Bangor’s neighborhoods have many examples to draw from. Our advice is to think big. But first you have to get involved.