Gathering to focus on historic preservation

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AUGUSTA — Revitalization of historic downtown business districts can be done.

“Main Street — and even our small village centers can thrive and retain the quality of life that is Maine’s special brand,” said Roxanne Eflin, program director of the Maine Downtown Center.

Historic preservationists, town and city officials and others who care about preserving history and developing successful downtown business districts will gather in Augusta on June 3 and 4 for the Revitalizing Maine Communities conference.

“People need to attend and embrace the possible,” Eflin said of the conference that will feature two nationally-recognized speakers and 23 workshops that will enable attendees to revitalize and “green up” their communities.

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“Historic preservation is one of the country’s leading catalysts for downtown revitalization and community enhancement. In Maine, with $150 million of new historic rehabilitation tax credit projects in the pipeline since the new state credit went into effect in November 2008, historic preservation is currently leading private-sector investment in real estate,” said Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation.

According to Paxton, investment grew 23,000 percent in 2009.

Paxton said attendees of the conference will learn how to assess a building needing maintenance, how rehabilitating historic buildings is critical to downtown revitalization and neighborhood improvement strategies, explore how to preserve rural communities and encourage compact economic development surrounded by rural open spaces, roll out the new statewide building and energy codes that will be adopted on June 1, and discover the latest in green rehabilitation practices.

This is the first time the Maine Downtown Center, Maine Preservation and GrowSmart Maine have presented a conference together, Eflin said. It will be held in historic downtown Augusta.This year marks the 10th year for the Maine Downtown Conference, Maine Preservation has been holding an annual conference since 1972 and GrowSmart Maine held their annual Forums each fall for a few years until recently.

Eflin said transformations of historic downtowns are happening everywhere across the state.

“The statistics reported to us from our Main Street Maine communities speaks volumes to the value of preservation-based economic development,” Eflin said. “In those towns and cities where well-organized community-wide support for revitalizing historic downtowns is in place and working, we are witnessing a remarkable transformation. These are the places where authentic character meets with a true sense of place to swell community pride, and where locally-owned businesses are doing well against a tide of economic challenges.”

Eflin said the conference, which is open to anyone after a registration process, will provide two days of educational opportunities to help communities thrive; two nationally-recognized keynote speakers, 23 workshops focusing on must-know tools and techniques to revitalize and “green up” communities, and opportunities to network with community leaders who are experiencing similar successes and challenges.

The keynote speaker is Donovan Rypkema, principal of PlaceEconomics, a Washington, D.C.-based international real estate and economic development consulting firm which trains in community-based development, economic revitalization of downtowns and neighborhood commercial centers, and the rehabilitation of historic structures.

The second keynote speaker is Tripp Muldrow of Arnett Muldrow & Associates, one of the nation’s leaders specializing in “branding” for communities seeking to create economic vitality.

Additionally the conference will have training in the Main Street Four-Point Approach, an up close look at Augusta’s historic Water Street facades in the “Old Fort District,” breakfast, lunch, receptions and honor awards celebrating excellence in preservation and revitalization.

Eflin said a complete conference packet in a 100 percent recycled tote bag handy for browsing the display tables will be provided along with “inspiration and confidence to elevate your economic climate back home.”

The conference is open to the public. Attendees may register online at www.mdf.org.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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