Vision first. Plan second. Execution third.
From that simple formula has come nearly all of human progress.
That’s why we are excited to see both Lewiston and Auburn developing ambitious visions that will make the Twin Cities better places to live and work.
Lewiston is much further along with its Riverfront Island master plan. The region includes the area between the canals and the banks of the Androscoggin River.
Experts have been telling us for 20 years that the post-industrial waterfront is ripe for redevelopment. A much cleaner river has created the potential for business, housing and recreational opportunities.
Among the ideas: a continuous river walk, making Simard-Payne an actual waterfront park, developing Museum L-A as a waterfront attraction, building a hotel and other commercial assets.
Another idea is planting trees and returning the canals to the “gracious green corridor” they were a century ago.
Thursday, the city of Auburn began a process we hope will lead to a similar development plan for New Auburn.
Architects, who are donating their time, and Mayor Jonathan LaBonte guided residents through the initial stages of a vision process Wednesday night.
A walking path and pedestrian bridge over the Little Androscoggin were discussed, as was a possible amphitheater.
Such plans are always embraced by some and rejected by others. Several residents expressed concern that the plans could lead to higher taxes.
Others will certainly point out that visionary plans often lift hopes only to gather dust on shelves.
Which was what happened a dozen years ago when Auburn officials unveiled a very ambitious plan to improve the city’s downtown.
“The latest design for Auburn’s downtown got a somewhat mixed reaction from the 75 or so people on hand for the last of three ADAPT public meetings,” Sun Journal reporter Randy Whitehouse wrote in June 1998.
“Some expressed excitement over its vision, while others were skeptical about its feasibility ...”
Some of the elements of that plan:
• Move city and school district offices into a single new building downtown.
• Expand Auburn Hall to become a bed and breakfast with an above-ground parking lot behind it and the City Building.
• Expand the Auburn Public Library.
• Construct a large hotel downtown.
• Construct a 1,000-foot-long public greenway at Great Falls Plaza.
• Construct a festival plaza.
• Make Mechanics Row a through-way street.
• Improve the attractiveness of the downtown.
Mayor Lee Young, City Manager Pat Finnigan, the City Council and a group of citizens got behind that plan and kept pushing until it became a reality.
It was never easy, and it was always controversial, especially explaining those swooping canopies in Festival Plaza.
Large-scale progress is never easy. The alternative — slow decay — should be unthinkable.
But nearly all of the ADAPT plan happened in one form or another.
Several years ago, Lewiston completely overhauled its southern gateway on Lisbon Street.
Again, it wasn’t easy, but it was a tremendous improvement.
Everything starts with a vision of a better future. The real test for both Lewiston and Auburn, and their new mayors and councilors, will be having the patience and tenacity to shepherd these plans to completion.
The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.