More in Featured
Turning around a downtown
A six-member team from Maine Development Foundation toured Congress Street in Rumford with Envision Rumford members on July 30. Here, they visit with Brian Nichols, owner of Brian's Bistro. (Times photo by Bruce Farrin)
RUMFORD -- On July 30, a six-member team from Maine Development Foundation toured Congress Street in Rumford with Envision Rumford members, interviewing people and taking copious notes.
This was a followup following Rumford's designation as a Downtown Network Community on May 31. Fostering downtown revitalization in 29 communities representing every county in Maine, the program helps to build the organizational and funding base for Envision Rumford and offers access to training from local, state and national professionals.
That evening, the team met with some 50 people in Rumford Falls Auditorium for an overview of their tour. A written report on their findings will be submitted in a few weeks.
Eflin, the senior program director of the Maine Development Foundation (MDF), said the first step in this process took place with her visit here in January, followed by the application and acceptance as a Downtown Network Community. "This (tonight) is a startup visit with a team."
"You have very beautiful historical buildings and have caring people," she noted, before introducing the team, which included Bill King, owner of RVI and volunteer with Bath Main Street; Scott Berk, owner of Cafe Nomad in Norway; and Jennifer Olsen, executive director with Waterville Main Street.
Observations included the following:
* Look at ways to open up views of the river;
* Relocate parking along the waterfront;
* Improve the visual look of town-owned property along the waterfront;
* Use colors, banners, flowers, art and find ways to bring children to the main street;
* Have functions to get people to the downtown, to experience the buildings.
This aspect Envision Rumford is already doing with events like the Pumpkin Fest and the Lumberjack Festival, to go with the Christmas in the Valley and the Fourth of July events.
* Do things together that a small business couldn't do by themselves;
* Figure out how get popup businesses in some of those vacant buildings;
* In the short term, learn the process of how to moth ball vacant building to preserve them so they won't deteriorate.
Eflin added, "This is marathon, not a sprint. Do more with what you've got, including this room and the court house. This is a remarkable setting with remarkable buildings. We're excited to Rumford with us."
Jennifer Kreckel of Envision Rumford said, "This is the start of a new beginning in Rumford. We can all make this a place where businesses and people will want to come to make Rumford a great community again."
Since the start of the year, the local volunteers have worked together to work on ideas in four different areas -- organization, design, promotions and economic restructuring -- which follows the program's four-point approach.
Following a brainstorming session, each committee set these initial goals:
From organization: 1. Work on structure, 2. Have a budget, 3. Outreach to the community.
From restructuring: 1. Offer space for three to four months for pop-up businesses, 2. Make existing businesses a priority, 3. Evaluate existing businesses and their needs.
From promotions: 1. A slogan to build on the national resources of the area, 2. Planning more activities in the downtown, 3. Build on the history that's here.
From design: 1. Fixing sidewalks, add greenery, improve pot containers, 2. Use empty store fronts for art displays by kids and photography, 3. Cleaning up the road area leading into the downtown.
Rumford Town Manager Carlo Puiia displayed and read the Congressional sentiment on a plaque from U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-Maine, that was given to Rumford recently because the town received a national Main Street designation and for joining the Maine Downtown Network Program.
According to the plaque, the program has promoted the revitalization of downtowns across the country by leveraging local assets, such as cultural or architectural heritage, local enterprise and community pride.
As a national Main Street designee, Michaud said Rumford would receive guidance, resources and professional training in community development from the Maine Downtown Center. The center serves as the state coordinator for the program.
"Rumford is capitalizing on its distinct character through a unique public-private partnership, to stimulate economic vitality in the heart of their community," Michaud said.
"This recognition acknowledges the hard work that the town of Rumford and its business community have put towards strengthening the local economy. Their efforts are already yielding dividends and making the region a better place to do business."
For upcoming events, Envision Rumford a Crossroads Celtic Festival on Saturday, September 14.
There will be a Street Faire from 1-5 p.m. to provide entertainment, wares, food and displays downtown, with a Celtic Jam from 2-4.
The Crossroad Celtic Fesitval concert will begin at 7 p.m. in the Rumford Falls Auditorium.
If you're a crafter or artist, or would like to volunteer, be a part of something truly unique! For more information or to sign up, call Tammi Lyons at 364-3365, ext. 221 or email her at email@example.com.