Camden named Maine Downtown Network Community
By Jenna Lookner, Camden Herald:
Camden — Camden has been named a Maine Downtown Network Community by the Maine Downtown Center. The news was announced at the Select Board meeting Tuesday, April 17, during the presentation of the Camden Downtown Master Plan.
Lead Camden Downtown Master Plan consultant Denis Lachman said Roxanne Eflin, Program Director for the Maine Downtown Center had authorized him to "leak" the news even though the formal announcement isn't scheduled until May 18.
Maine Downtown Network Community is a designation given to select communities throughout Maine. Criteria for selection include a central business district, an organized effort, a sustainable budget and a pledge of commitment to the program.
Eflin explained the Maine Downtown Network Community program is "a sister to the Main Street Maine program." Eflin said while the standards adopted by network communities are less rigorous, they're aimed at accomplishing many parallel goals. She said many communities entering the network program do so in the hope of progressing to Main Street Maine status in the future. The program offers support and resources for communities in the process of implementing plans for downtown revitalization including organizational visits and consulting services. Eflin said a "walk about" is planned for Camden later in the summer. A walk about is part of the start-up process for communities selected for the network program. Eflin said a start-up team will visit Camden, connect with local leaders and tour downtown in order to identify the primary needs for Camden's downtown. After the physical visit a start-up report will be provided to help "guide work in the next few years," according to Eflin.
Maine Downtown Network Communities are required to sign a two-year letter of agreement to organize around the same Maine Street Four-Point Approach as Main Street Maine communities, she explained.
The four-point approach "is the foundation for local initiatives to revitalize their districts by leveraging local assets—from cultural or architectural heritage to local enterprises and community pride," according to the national website of the Main Street Four-Point Approach. The four points are organization, promotion, design and economic restructuring and are designed to "work together to build a sustainable and complete community revitalization effort."
Eflin said not all communities entering as Maine Downtown Network communities want to be considered for the Main Street Maine program.
"Some are pleased to be trained, to be a part of a network, to have access to resources," she explained. The rigorous Main Street Maine program "doesn't always match with smaller communities," she said.
The application process for network status is very selective and communities apply only after being invited by the Maine Downtown Center, she explained. Communities are selected to receive invitations through a number of criteria, some have communicated interest, all have a vested interest in working "to organize around downtown." Eflin said the newly unveiled Camden Downtown Master Plan will dovetail "beautifully" with the Maine Network Community program.
Camden Development Director Brian Hodges said he is "very excited and very pleased" that Camden has been selected.
"The timing is perfect," Hodges added.
He said it's difficult to determine whether Camden will pursue a future designation to the Main Street Maine program. He explained that "a key component" of being a Maine Downtown Network community is organization and participating in the program will help guide future directives.
"This will help us further promote who we are as a vibrant coastal community," Hodges said.
Camden is one of four new communities that will be given the designation Maine Downtown Network Community at the Maine Downtown Conference in Farmington on May 18. Eflin said once the new communities are added to the program, there will be 30 in total representing all 16 counties in the state.