RHS Progress Report – August 2011

Think back to last weekend, as you were going about your Saturday errands. Think about the number of separate stops you had to make, the number of times you parked your car, the traffic,  the street lights . . . and then think about how exhausted you were when you got home!  ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip takes on the challenge of meeting market demands of getting your errands done in a timely way, but in a more downtown/village-focused,  less car-dependent way that reduces stress on you and on your community’s resources.

A large proportion of commercial development in the last 40 years in Maine developed in a pattern that is unsustainable, inefficient and unsightly – low density suburban style development outside of traditional downtowns, village centers and neighborhood centers.  This pattern is unsustainable from economic, environmental, transportation, community character and fiscal standpoints.

Thanks to the generous support of foundations, businesses and individuals, GrowSmart Maine launched ReEnvisioning the Highway Strip in January of this year to explore whether it is possible to retrofit these “strips” in a manner that will foster a greater sense of community, a more stable business environment and a more visually appealing roadside.

Project leader Lynne Seeley, Evan Richert and Bruce Hyman have spent many hours doing field work, research and interviews to better understand the dynamics of current strip mall development in Maine and how to better integrate them into our communities.

A mini-charette is planned for late September as an initial exercise, using a Maine site to think through some of the concepts being considered. Following that, a white paper will be developed and workshops held to share the information with towns across the state.

 A second phase of the project is being planned to include a demonstration site. Watch for details in our next newsletter!


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