LEWISTON – The plan, according to the city’s new Strategic Plan, is to create another plan.

That was one of the main suggestions in the draft of the plan released to the public and city councilors on Friday. Councilors will have the weekend to review the 39-page document; they are scheduled to discuss it in a workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The plan details the city’s strengths and weaknesses, identifies some challenges citizens and city officials will have to deal with, and some unique opportunities.

It identifies goals in seven areas: innovative service delivery, neighborhood identity, safety, riverfront development, economic growth, sustainability, and civic engagement and collaboration.

“These items are all interconnected, and you could make a case for all of them being the top priority,” said Lewiston Public Library Director Rick Speer, chairman for the strategic planning effort. “I think it’s futile to pick out one and say that it’s the most important.”

Most of the goals touch on Lewiston’s downtown area. Speer said that redeveloping the area between the Androscoggin River and Lewiston’s canals, christened the Riverfront Island by the strategic plan, is a priority.

“That concept came out very early in this process, and this citizen pointed out that this was essentially a big island, surrounded by water,” Speer said.

He said the waterfront was one of the city’s biggest strategic advantages, but had never been used effectively. “We used it to power the mills for some time, but other than that, we’ve turned our back on it.”

The plan notes that the future of Bates Mill No. 5, the massive, sawtooth-roofed building in the center of that area, is one of the main challenges facing the city. The building is the last part of the Bates Mill Enterprise Complex that the city still owns. Plans in the past have called for renovating it as a convention center, but councilors are trying to decide now whether they should pay to renovate the building or simply tear it down.

The study puts off a recommendation for the building’s fate, saying the leaders should use the new Riverfront Island Master Plan to decide what to do.

The city began work on a strategic plan in December. The goal was to provide a long-term set of rationales for future decisions, from planning and zoning to economic growth and redevelopment.

The city hosted dozens of meetings with businesses, social and political action groups and neighbors as part of the planning process. That included three “family” meetings open to anyone who lived or worked in the city.

Other goals from the plan:

Innovate: “Some of the groups told us that we need to be more open and connected to the rest of the community, and that our service delivery methods need to be more responsive,” Speer said.

Neighborhood identity: Decades ago, neighborhoods in Lewiston were determined by which parish church people attended or which school their children attended. That’s not the case anymore. “There’s a feeling that we’ve lost a sense of identity and of belonging, and that’s really important,” Speer said. “We need to do what we can to help people connect to their immediate neighborhood.”

Safety: The plan groups a wide array of items under the safety heading, including police, fire, water quality, housing safety and traffic control.

• Economic growth: The study notes that the city has seen tremendous growth over the past several years, almost $443.5 million in property value. At the same time, the city’s housing stock continues to be poorly maintained, taxes remain high and many in the downtown continue to live in poverty. “We have lost good-quality jobs that can provide a good, livable wage,” Speer said. “So we need continue to develop economic growth, but with an eye toward developing jobs.”

Sustainability: “We need to keep in mind that our choices, the ones we make today, will affect the future,” Speer said. “The city is going to be here, for the very long term, and we need to keep that in mind.”

Civic engagement: When Lewiston was named an All-America City in 2007, civic engagement and including the public in guiding the future of the city were listed as one of Lewiston’s strengths.

“But there is a sense that we need to do more to remove barriers from all levels for everyone,” Speer said. “The city needs to be a partner with the community, helping the residents decide what they want to happen.”


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