PARIS — Sandy Swett will write the future of the next 10 summers and beyond. 

Last month, selectmen awarded Swett a contract to study and recommend the outlook for an area ranging from Moore Park, through Market Square and to McLaughlin Garden. It is expected to take three months.

Swett admits a Herculean task lies before her.

In a way, her job is symbolic of the overhaul to the old fire station she and her husband, Terry, purchased from the town in 2013 to relocate their business.

“Every feral cat in the county was here. It was bad,” Swett said.

The study she’ll complete synthesizes reams of demographic data and the responses of every civic organization, committee, art collective, church, business owner, student and group to the question, “What should downtown Paris be?” 

In an effort to answer that question, the study will, among a host of information, catalog the status of the town from education and income levels, to business specifications, to local ordinances and natural resources.

Impetus for the study began last summer when a fluid group of business owners around Market Square formed the South Paris Revitalization Forum and started discussing ways to alleviate the tax burden on individuals — which increased 20 percent for property owners in 2013 — and to beautify the town.

Jeanie Stone, one of the earliest organizers, said, “It would be advantageous to our current business community if there were aesthetic improvements to the town.”

Capturing the economic stimulus from Oxford Casino, which generated $58.3 million in revenue from slot machines in 2013, was another focus.

In August 2013, an Oxford-based developer announced plans to build a hotel, restaurants and retail shops on 550 acres of farmland across from the casino. 

Paris, Swett said, needed to position itself to attract those types of ancillary businesses likely to sprout in its wake.

As the group brainstormed and the number of businesses backing the group grew, Swett was nominated to devise the plan as she completed similar work authoring a downtown study in Stanford, Ky., in 2011 that led to an artistic renaissance of concerts, shops and art walks.

While cleaning vacant lots and planting flowers are included on a long list of aesthetic improvements, Swett pumped the breaks on the notion an artsy transformation was in the works. 

“It’s not that I personally have a plan now — I don’t,” she said.  

Messages left with Standford Mayor Bill Miracle were not returned Wednesday. 

Swett said the implications of the study are far from revolutionary; most of them are common-sense, good-neighbor policies indicative of small-town culture and synonymous with values already practiced. 

“Some things are simple, like cleaning up a brush pile. A lot of times, people live with their messes until someone says, ‘It’s a mess.'”  

Just what the downtown will look like is anyone’s — and everyone’s — guess. Recommendations could include expanding programs in the town’s parks and expanding water access, catering toward tourism or growing the kinds of businesses residents drive to Auburn and Lewiston to seek. 

Market Square Restaurant owner Scott Gilbert pointed to the strides neighbors Norway and Bethel undertook to clear vacant buildings and plant flowers that revitalized their downtown into a sought-after destination. 

“We don’t want to be a spot people just go through,” Gilbert said. 

Town Manager Amy Bernard said the community must decide on the sort of shops and businesses they’ll support with their tax dollars.

“Ultimately, the outcome we want is a downtown supported by the people living here,” Bernard said, noting the study’s recommendation’s will have to be approved by voters. 

Swett said she wants to create a downtown residents that gives visitors a reason to stop. 

“You have to designate a nucleus of the community. It’s where the heritage will be displayed and it should be the pride of the town.” 


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