ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip: June Project Update

Re-Envisioning the Highway Strip is gearing up for two additional mini-design charrettes, building on the Reny’s Plaza charrette in Belfast last fall.  The project continues to explore finding the “sweet spot” between best design and transportation-land use practices, on the one hand, and market acceptance by commercial property owners and tenants on the other.  After talking with planners and property owners from Presque Isle to Wells, sites in Topsham and Augusta were selected that would provide the greatest insight into issues facing municipalities, property owners and tenants of strip centers across the state.

Thanks to the generous support of foundations, businesses and individuals, GrowSmart Maine launched ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip to explore whether it is possible to retrofit the familiar highway strip corridor.  We all know this type of development when we see it, the common low density, automobile oriented businesses along a highway corridor, fronted by expansive parking lots, and designed with minimal landscaping or pedestrian amenities.  While these corridors may be lacking in visual appeal, these “strips” often represent significant investment in land development and infrastructure costs for many communities, private landowners, developers and businesses that locate along the corridors. So Re-Envisioning the Highway Strip strives to take into account the market and economic perspective, to offer an alternative pattern of development for these “strips”  that will foster a greater sense of community, a more stable business environment and a more visually appealing roadside.

Project leader Lynne Seeley, with the help of team members Evan Richert and Bruce Hyman, compiled a working draft White Paper of their findings from research, site visits, interviews and a mini-charrette held at Reny’s Plaza in Belfast.  The White Paper will be expanded and revised following the mini-charrettes in Topsham and Augusta.  The project will wrap-up this fall, and will include a session at the GrowSmart Summit in October.

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