On Thursday, November 12, forty Sanford residents, business owners and property owners took part in a Zoom meeting hosted by the Sanford Growth Council, to learn more about the Main Street Affiliate program. The program is a downtown revitalization effort, part of the Maine Downtown Center’s work to advance economic development in Maine downtowns.
A presentation by Anne Ball, Program Director for the Maine Development Fund, detailed the Affiliate program, which is designed for smaller communities, or those in the early stages of revitalization. A lively discussion followed. Ms. Ball polled those in attendance to gauge interest in a second meeting; more than 90% said yes.
Many Sanford residents will remember the Downtown Legacy program that used to sponsor special events and downtown improvements. It’s hoped that a fresh start with a more focused approach will enable this new effort to succeed. Ms. Ball told the group that if residents, downtown business and property owners, and the City of Sanford are all on the same page, it can be done.
She provided many examples of Maine cities and towns that are bringing life back to their downtowns. Often these efforts begin with one simple project that has visible results. The Friends of Woodford Corner group in Portland began by cleaning up a stretch of railroad tracks in the neighborhood.
A transformation strategy, geared specifically to the community, helps focus the work. Examples that other Maine communities have successfully used include the arts, food-related businesses, outdoor recreation, and historic preservation.
Transformation strategies are implemented through work in four broad areas, known as the Four Points: Economic Vitality, Design, Promotion and Organization. The Maine Downtown Center provides training and guidance to assist local groups with the entire process.
If you’re interested in joining the conversation, contact the Sanford Growth Council at sanfordgrowth.com/contact/ to be notified when the next meeting is scheduled.