LEWISTON – The Visible Community, a group working to amplify and organize the voices of downtown residents on issues of housing and community development, has received a grant to organize and develop a People’s Downtown Master Plan.

The local group of downtown residents, faith leaders and community members who formed in 2004 to stop the construction of a boulevard in downtown Lewiston that would have displaced 850 residents are celebrating more than two years of work and a $20,000 grant from the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People.

Members call themselves the Visible Community – a name they say came from downtown residents feeling invisible in city decision-making processes – and they have become a major voice for residents of the downtown neighborhood.

“We are visible now,” said group member Bonnie Gammon, a resident of Blake Street.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Nancy Gallant, a member who lives on Knox Street. “It makes us stronger that we did get it and it makes our community a better place to live because more residents will be involved.”

“A couple years of ago we were able to stop everything to save our homes,” said Gallant. “That’s why I came to the first meeting and still participate today.”

The group plans to use the grant to develop what they have termed a “People’s Downtown Master Plan.” The plan will be created to reflect the needs and desires of their community.

“The process we will use to create the plan will include hundreds of residents,” said Claire Lepage of Lewiston. “Our group believes that the best policies and planning for the city will come out of an open and public process where residents feel included and heard.”

The group is working to get the Maple Street Park back. The city administration promised the park would be restored after the demolition of the Ritz Café, but the park remains vacant.

The Visible Community was recently given a designated seat on Lewiston’s new Downtown Neighborhood Task Force.

The Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People is a project of the Presbyterian Church USA. With a belief in self-determination, self-respect and independence, the church set up the Self-Development of People Fund to provide grants to organizations in the USA and abroad.

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