OLD TOWN – Monday night’s second of three brainstorming sessions on the future of Old Town’s downtown yielded possible redevelopment ideas for the former Old Town Canoe factory site.

The city is preparing to develop a master plan to encourage future development and growth in the downtown area. This process is being guided by the downtown planning committee, which is comprised of local residents. The engineering and planning firm Wright-Pierce is assisting the city in this process and is facilitating a public participation process to include an estimated three public meetings with residents and businesses to obtain input.

Acting economic development director Ron Harriman said after Monday’s meeting that about 25 people turned out for the second session, yielding very good input after Wright-Pierce staff reviewed possible options for their site, such as fully developed, open space, and mixed use.

“Primarily, the people in attendance were leaning toward a mixed space use,” said Harriman. ‘There was a lot of good feedback that demonstrated the high level of interest people have in what happens. They care about downtown Old Town.”

Harriman said the idea of having an anchor business for the downtown at the former Old Town Canoe site, such as a Reny’s or a Trader Joe’s, was tossed about as well.

“There’s a belief, and rightfully so, that type of business – one where a person could do a fair amount of shopping without driving to Bangor – would be supported in Old Town; there are another residential units right in the downtown where they could make a go of it,” said Harriman. Ideas for strictly recreational support, such as a skating rink, didn’t garner as much support, said Harriman.

But nobody is saying just yet that the city should be putting all its eggs in one basket, said Harriman, and other options could be explored as well, such as several smaller retail businesses, and a farmer’s market. And while the idea has not been discussed recently, Harriman said the notion of the James w. Sewall relocating to the site has not yet been ruled out.

“Everything is still on the table, although there may be some constraints when the Brownfield remediation is complete,” said Harriman. “We want to be as accommodating as we can be on this. “If we get a consensus on where the city should go, we could then start pushing in that direction.

Harriman said the next step will be that the committee running the forums and Wright Pierce to recap what has taken place to date at the first two forums, as well as continuing to review survey responses on the downtown. A third and final meeting will be held early this spring, likely in April, where Wright Pierce will present a draft plan.

No further survey on the future of the downtown are being distributed. However, if anybody has any ideas, Harriman encourages them to contact him at [email protected].


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