Downtown Alliance of Maine

The Vision of the Alliance  

The Downtown Alliance of Maine is a collaborative effort of non-profit, business, civic and governmental organizations aligned to support Maine’s downtowns.  By creating and fostering connections and capacity of the people within and across Maine communities, the Alliance creates lasting prosperity statewide.

Long-term outcomes:Gardiner Downtown

The Alliance promotes and supports economically and culturally vital downtowns as places with businesses and jobs, community and cultural events resulting from long range vision and design and strategic public and private investments.

The social infrastructure of Maine’s downtowns will be capable and successful because more people will:

  1. Appreciate the economic, historic, cultural, social, climate and environmental values of vibrant downtowns
  2. Be connected within their communities as they engage in the downtown, supporting local businesses and cultural activities
  3. Have the information and resources to feel confident advocating for downtowns at town, region, state and federal levels

The People of the Alliance:

Steering Committee:  The Alliance steering committee will determine its direction and guide its work.  This committee is currently composed of GrowSmart Maine, which leads and staffs the Alliance; Maine Development Foundation, which houses the Maine Downtown Center; Maine Preservation; Kennebec Valley Council of Governments; The Nature Conservancy in Maine; Wright-Pierce; The Island Institute

Membership: The Alliance will enlist non-profits, developers, businesses, residents, and government agencies with a proven interest in downtown revitalization. These stakeholders will collectively provide expertise in issues such as urban planning, historic preservation and real estate, strategic business development, collaborative community engagement, strategic investments in public infrastructure, combating sprawl while conserving natural areas, and impacts of a changing climate. Maine is a place rich with local leaders, entrepreneurs, and community pride to face all sorts of challenges – economic, cultural, and natural (flood and fire). It is this love of place and can-do spirit that, once harnessed, will lead to vibrant, revitalized downtowns. These are the people we will engage as they focus on their own Main Streets and downtowns.

Population Served: This statewide alliance is open to all Mainers interested in strengthening our downtowns. Rural communities are most likely in need of resources offered by Alliance members as they tend to have limited staff while facing considerable threats of economic disinvestment, poverty and social isolation, some risking population loss that places the future of these towns at risk.

The Work of the Alliance comprises capacity building at the local level and advocacy at many levels.

Its key goals include:

Increase local capacity by facilitating Alliance members’:

  • Participation in leadership programs across the state
  • Providing and connecting to relevant trainings and outreach
  • Appointment to appropriate positions, boards, commissions with local, regional and statewide impact

Strengthen Connections within communities and across Maine:

  • Raise awareness of downtown resources and successes through makingheadway.me and targeted outreach
  • Promote and perhaps provide scholarships for attendance at relevant events and trainings
  •  Support the Maine Downtown Center:
  • Assist with events and trainings through program recommendations and marketing/outreach
  • Market MDC to communities as one of the most valuable programs available in Maine
  • Promote Downtown Investments through development and marketing of materials outlining the Existing and new businesses in Maine’s downtowns
  • Rehabilitation and reuse of existing building stock, compatible infill and complementary public spaces
  • Encouraging growth within designated growth areas and those in which public infrastructure exists.

Encourage Strategic Advocacy:

From the work of the Alliance, state and federal level policy issues will arise that can be addressed through the alliance. For instance:

  • Advocacy for funding downtown investments in communities, such as Community Development Block Grants
  • Advocacy for support of Maine Downtown Center
  • Advocacy for issues of statewide significance at local, state and federal levels such as infrastructure investments, Complete Streets policies and implementation, rehabilitation and reuse of existing buildings, Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit, Maine Uniform Building and Energy Code
  • Advocacy in support of comprehensive training for building officials in MUBEC and fire codes for existing buildings and reuse of upper floors
  • Advocacy on issues relevant to some region or subset of communities, such as resiliency in the face of coastal flooding and sea level rise and changes in the federal flood insurance
  • Advocacy at a local level: Imagine the power of the Alliance, representing many communities, advocated for issues/investments based in one or a few communities

Initial Steps:

In its first year, the Alliance will frame its own structure and begin its outreach to targeted communities.

  1. Establish a strong steering committee representing a broad base of support for downtowns.
  2. Update and confirm membership based on most recent (2012) Downtown Coalition membership of over 80 leaders with a specific effort to recruit a mix of new and deeply-rooted Mainers.
  3. Develop alliance work plan to include local capacity building and strengthening connections across communities and counties, across the state.
  4. In the first year, the Alliance will begin capacity building focusing on communities with existing relationships with Steering Committee members.
  5. Develop a Communications Plan to accomplish and share this work

Partners of the Alliance:

With its place-based focus, the Alliance will work with allied issues-based coalitions to ensure downtown perspectives are specifically addressed in relevant issues such as economic development, public infrastructure investments, climate change and affordable housing.

The Maine Downtown Center Advisory Council is a key partner to the Alliance, primarily focused on the working of MDC and its field teams, serving the Main Street Maine and Downtown Network communities.

Maine Real Estate and Development Association will be engaged through Greg Paxton of Maine Preservation, who serves on their legislative committee.