RUMFORD — During a 60-minute meeting Thursday night in the municipal building conference room, three of five Rumford selectmen and Town Manager Carlo Puiia listened to a PowerPoint presentation by Phil Blampied about the Lincoln Avenue Development plan.

During the presentation, Blampied detailed recent history of the 2.3-acre block between Waldo and Cumberland streets that fronts Lincoln Avenue.

Many of the century-old structures are currently vacant due to building and fire code violations, and are in serious disrepair.

Of 18 parcels on that block, nine are partially or completely unoccupied, Blampied said.

Two have been taken by the town for unpaid taxes.

“The vacant buildings present an invitation to vandals, to thieves, to arsonists,” Blampied said. “They are a danger to children who may play around or inside them.”

He said the building block he referred to as the “Gateway” into Rumford, presents a picture of blight and decline to anyone driving west into town on Route 2 from Mexico.

“It is important to the future of Rumford that efforts be made to revitalize the Waldo Street area,” he said. “The block between Waldo and Cumberland facing Lincoln Avenue may be the place to start.”

“Just as it is the block with the most problems, it is also the block with the most potential, sitting on an intersection directly across from the town’s only supermarket,” Blampied said of Hannaford.

“It is prime for redevelopment, from residential to commercial use.”

Blampied said that according to a Maine Department of Transportation traffic study, 10,000 vehicles a day pass by the block.

“That’s enough traffic to support commercial development,” Blampied said.

Rumford currently has a surplus of low-income rental housing. However, in contrast, the town also needs jobs, new investment and additional tax revenue that new commercial development can bring, he said.

The block has already attracted interest from two developers — a fast-food chain restaurant and Walgreens — but plans for both fell through.

Blampied said the presence of Hannaford directly across the street could be seen as an anchor for potential development.

“With two buildings there owned by the town and several others unoccupied, there is more opportunity now than ever before to redevelop the block into an attractive commercial or other public non-residential use,” Blampied said. “The infrastructure there can handle it.”

Additionally, Cumberland Street, with no driveways adjacent to the block, could be reconfigured to accommodate parking and traffic for any new redevelopment.

First steps, he said, are to work with existing owners of the properties, although most are absentee property owners and landlords.

“The only homeowner has, in fact, had his home for sale for years,” Blampied said.

A local Realtor has listed $2,148,000 as the sale price for the block, but the nearly 1,000-square-foot property is appraised by the town at $759,992, and has a market price of $1.7 million, he said.

If selectmen were to declare the buildings as blighted, Blampied said Rumford could start eminent domain action to seize them, if it wanted to act very aggressively toward redeveloping the area.

He also suggested that the town could create an urban renewal authority or nonprofit development corporation like Wilton and Farmington have done to undertake redevelopment efforts for the block.

Federal and state grants are available for the work, he said.

After the presentation, Selectmen Jeff Sterling, Frank DiConzo and Mark Belanger discussed potential redevelopment ideas with Blampied, like demolishing the buildings and putting in a multi-town public safety building, a public marketplace similar to one in Boston, or even a western Maine college campus.

“It’s got potential,” Belanger said. “There’s no doubt.”

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Rumford selectmen Jeff Sterling, foreground, Mark Belanger, and Frank DiConzo and Town Manager Carlo Puiia read from a handout at Thursday night’s Lincoln Avenue Redevelopment plan meeting as consultant Phil Blampied explains potential development ideas for the 2.3-acre block between Waldo and Cumberland streets.

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