Lisbon plans to locate a family and pet friendly park on the historic site of Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant as part of the town’s Route 196 gateway to town from Lewiston. Here is a rendering of what it would look like from Route 196. Courtesy of Dennis Douglass

LISBON — Six years after a landmark restaurant was demolished along Route 196, Lisbon plans to turn Graziano Square into a park, transforming the gateway to town.

Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant was leveled in March 2013. The business closed in March 2012 after a 43-year run because the Graziano family could no longer afford to operate such a large building.

Lisbon’s comprehensive plan, a blueprint for development in town, focuses on what’s now known as Graziano Square as one of the areas the town needs to focus on to make Lisbon more attractive.

The abandoned corner is an integral part of town, according to said Code Enforcement Officer Denis Douglass.

The town council agreed to spend up to $75,000 on the new recreation area. Douglass said he expects the park to be completed for far less.

He’s received nearly $3,000 in donations and grants, and some contractors in town have promised to contribute to the park, either helping with components of the construction or with donations.

Douglass said the design pays homage to Graziano’s Casa Mia Restaurant, which had a boxing theme. The park will feature a gazebo for live music performances, as well as a kiosk with information about trails and recreation opportunities. A 5-mile trail to Lisbon Falls starts at the square.

“We wanted this to be a small community park,” Douglass said. “We have an area for a food truck or vendor. … We’ve fenced it in with really nice industrial fencing, so it’s safe for families and pets inside the park.”

The park also includes about 10 new parking spaces for the village businesses.

The town also landed a $300,000 grant to put in new concrete sidewalks in the Route 196 and Village Street area surrounding Graziano Square. The intersection at Village Street and Route 196 will have new crosswalks and bus shelters as well.

“This is going to be a huge transformation desperately needed for the Lisbon village,” Douglass said.

Tracey Steuber, Lisbon’s economic and community development director, said over the past three years the town has focused revitalization efforts and taken in more than $600,000 in various state and federal grant funding programs in the Lisbon Falls downtown area to work in conjunction with projects already underway.

The Maine Department of Transportation replaced the Lisbon-Durham bridge, which opened in July 2016. The transportation department made lane and traffic signal improvements to the Route 196 and Main Street intersection and still plans to rebuild Main Street with new sidewalks next spring.

“Downtown there was so much happening and it just benefited the town to put all the eggs there,” Steuber said. “Funds are competitive and you’ve got to show that you’ve got some partnerships.”

Positive Change Lisbon, a partnership of businesses and residents working with local government to improve the town, held a mass ribbon cutting in July 2017 for nine businesses that had recently opened or relocated in the downtown along or near Main Street. More have come since, leaving Main Street full.

Walt’s Place, an arcade with pool tables, opened at 13 Village St. in April 2018. Then Mary Graziano Richard opened Grazi to Go early this year in St Anne’s Church — less than two blocks away from the corner where her family’s restaurant once stood.

There’s a spark of hope there that could ignite, according to Angie D’Amours, President of Positive Change Lisbon’s board of directors. Building the park accomplishes multiple things, she said.

“It provides a welcoming gateway at that end of town for travelers traveling east on Route 196. It provides green space for village residents to use,” she said.

It’s also good recognition of a family who’s restaurant business has meant so much in town, D’Amours said.

While the exact timeline hasn’t been nailed down, Douglass said park construction should take place later this spring, partly in conjunction with the surrounding sidewalk project work to start in May.

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