BUCKSPORT — This town appears ready to forgo building tourist attractions such as a mock downtown lighthouse, as was once proposed, in favor of improving what’s already here.
After six months of work with help from consultants Rich Rothe of Gardiner and Brian Kent of Hallowell, the Bucksport Business District subcommittee has completed a 10-year plan to revive the downtown, focusing on dressing up the area and providing support to businesses.
The plan is an outgrowth of the town’s economic development strategy adopted in 1995. The Town Council will discuss the initiative and funding options at its next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the town office.
According to the plan, a more “sophisticated” approach than has been used thus far is needed to build on the recent successes of developing a marina and filling several Main Street vacancies. First-year costs could total $361,000, with funding options including grants and the town’s unappropriated surplus.
“Our major objective is to revive the downtown, and make it a nice place to be,” said Town Manager Roger Raymond. “You fix up your downtown, you fix your infrastructure, you bring in appropriate businesses, and you keep them by offering a marketing program and financial assistance.”
For the most part, the plan targets the following areas for improvement: parking, sidewalks, streets, waterfront, gateway areas and amenities. On Main Street, the plan proposes rebuilding sidewalks on the north side between First and Franklin streets and improving parking at areas including the marina, near the post office and in the vicinity of MacLeod’s restaurant.
The idea is to create a more attractive environment for business and to attract businesses interested in serving primarily local and regional residents, with tourists secondary, said Raymond.
“Rebuilding Bucksport’s downtown in the image of its past would be fruitless,” the plan says. “Powerful retailers represented in the Bangor market by HQ, Sam’s, Wal-Mart, and `the Mall’ make direct competition on the part of local retailers a struggle. However, plentiful opportunities exist to complement the dominance of Bangor’s powerhouse retailers.”
The plan proposes continuing the local business attraction program prepared by Stafford Business Consultants and forming a downtown business association to coordinate advertising and special events.