LEWISTON — The Twin Cities have all of the ingredients to turn Androscoggin River frontage into an engine of change and economic development.
"So many of the ingredients you see in other communities, you have these ingredients here," speaker David Spillane told a crowd at a Great Falls Forum lecture Thursday.
"It's remarkable what you have already done in the last 10 years, the festivals you have, the waterfront parks, Museum L-A, the remarkable things that are happening with the mills and the restaurants that are growing along the waterfront," Spillane said.
Spillane, director of planning and urban design at the Boston firm Goody Clancy, led a tour of his favorite riverfront development projects at the Lewiston Public Library.
He gave a photographic tour of developments and the thinking behind riverfront projects from Boston to Oklahoma City, where there wasn't even a waterfront before the work started. Residents there built their own canal system and dammed a river to create their waterfront district.
Today, it's a bustling retail and restaurant district that draws world-class water athletics.
"It's not always about water," Spillane said. "It's about invention."
The district has begun to attract interest in residential and other developments around the area, he said.
Lewiston's master plan was written by Spillane's consulting firm Goody Clancy last year. It describes ways for the city to re-energize Lewiston's River Front Island, the area between the river and the canals, from Island Point to Cedar Street. It includes the Bates Mill complex, Simard/Payne Memorial Park, the Franco-American Heritage Center and Museum L-A.
Each development has three things in common: clean water, empty buildings and people willing to move there.
Water is the first ingredient, he said, and clean water along urban areas is a direct growth from the 1960s and 1970s green movement.
Like Lewiston, many communities had covered their waterfronts with warehouses and factories that eventually closed.
"You essentially have buildings lining the water, but also closing it off from the communities that are around them," he said. "We have the dynamic that water is getting cleaner, but you can't get to it. And the buildings there end up vacant and looking for new uses."
Demographics are on the side of urban waterfronts. Aging baby boomers and rising millennials are leaving suburban environments for urban areas. Waterfronts fit the needs of both generations.
"It's true in larger communities and it's becoming more true in smaller and mid-sized communities," Spillane said. "They are moving away from the suburbs to walking, urban, pedestrian environments. What you get is these two generations looking to the city for housing and work places and, in many cases, to those same vacant properties against the same urban waterways."