Voters in the Innovative Neighborhoods contest think high-speed internet access and a three-mile Greenbelt Walkway on the east side will make the state’s third largest city a more desirable place to live.
The friendly competition, organized by former Bangor city councilor Sean Faircloth, was designed to foster collaboration between residents — divided into the city’s five school districts — to make the city more attractive, both to current and future residents.
Teams of residents submitted ideas for improving their own neighborhoods, as well as ways to benefit the city as a whole. They gathered throughout the spring and summer to brainstorm. The competition, sponsored by a handful of businesses in the area, including Bangor Savings Bank and the Bangor Daily News, launched publicly in October, giving the public a chance to cast votes for their favorite ideas.
The winners were announced at Bangor Greendrinks Tuesday evening at the Bangor Public Library.
Residents in the Vine Street School neighborhood proposed bringing high-speed internet to Bangor in the form of a public-private partnership between the city and an internet service provider. Creating equal access to high-speed internet at the city level, according to their proposal, would bolster the Bangor’s ability to compete in an increasingly technology-centric world.
“What I want is for Bangor to become the tech center of Maine,” Elliott Hale, of the Vine Street neighborhood, told residents Tuesday night at the library.
The other winning idea — building a three-mile Greenway on the city’s east side to supplement existing stretches of the walkway already used by pedestrians — was proposed by residents of the Fruit Street School neighborhood.
Extending from the Penobscot River at Cascade Park to the Penjajawoc Preserve, the trail would build off progress made on the Bangor Trail Committee’s Trail 5, which will be completed in 2018 and connect Stillwater Avenue to Mt. Hope Avenue, according to the proposal.
Fruit Street resident Greg Edwards said going through this process was beneficial because it shows that not only are people excited about their community, but it proves that “we really could make a difference.”
How either of these projects would be funded or how much they would cost has yet to be determined, Faircloth said. But coming together as a community to figure out how to fund projects that people are passionate about is part of the challenge, he said.
Other ideas entered in the competition included establishing an anaerobic curbside composting service, developing a mobile app to accommodate walking tours of the city, building a multi-generational recreation space and community center, and starting an annual neighborhood music and arts festival.