LEWISTON — Little things, such as a curbside patch of grass spontaneously appearing on a busy city street, mean an awful lot, city planner Brian Wright said Tuesday.
"It's my image for this process," Wright said. "A lot of the things we are talking about are big ideas — long-term, expensive things. But the little, amazing things are important too."
Wright, principal for Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative, wrapped up an intensive, five-day planning session downtown Tuesday night, speaking to a group of about 70 in the Lewiston Public Library. Called the Legacy Lewiston Planapalooza, it's part of the work on Lewiston's new comprehensive plan.
The process kicked off last week with a group of volunteers building an impromptu parkette in front of the Planapalooza studio at 219 Lisbon St. — several square feet of sod covering a Lisbon Street parking space.
It was a small thing, Wright said, but it spoke volumes about Lewiston.
"You can accomplish things here," he said. "You have the people to do it. You have doers here. You have people who will not only make things happen but will volunteer and say, 'How can I take this little park thing and turn it into a big park?'"
The Planapalooza may be finished, but work on a new comprehensive plan is just beginning. Wright and his team will build the plan on the framework that's grown out of the Planapalooza process.
Suggestions include softening the downtown landscape with more plazas, focusing on the character of neighborhoods around the city and working to combine business, recreation, art and Lewiston's historic architecture.
It will be a concrete plan, Wright said.
"We can dream all day long, but in the end if there is no clear path to success, how do you make these things happen?" Wright asked. "You have to know how long it's going to take, about how much it's going to cost, who is in charge of it, who is going to help you with it and where the money is going to come from."
Wright promised a different process when he started last week, and Planapalooza delivered. It featured three formal public meetings, but almost 40 hours of impromptu private meetings in the group's office. Planners opened their studio to Lewiston residents, letting them stop by to offer opinions, check up on the group's progress and critique its work.
Many took the invitation, more than Wright expected.
"We had more people come into the doors of the studio than we ever have before — just showing up and dropping in," Wright said. "Normally, people wait until the meetings and the big presentations. You guys just dropped in, and it was great."
Wright's group will present a first draft to the city in August, to the public in October and to the state during the winter.
If all goes well, the new plan could be helping guide City Council and Planning Board decisions by next spring.
"We are going to make sure that this is set up so it's flexible and dynamic," Wright said. "It's a little playbook so you can respond as things happen."