Gardiner featured in Down East
Kennebec Journal - Mechelle Cooper
June 17th, 2012
GARDINER -- The city's development efforts recently were highlighted with the publication of an article in Down East magazine.
The article, "Why You Should Move to Gardiner," says the Gardiner keeps making big plans, and after years of trying to become a destination and improve economic development, those plans might come true.
The monthly publication is read by about 400,000 people, according to Down East.
The story's author, Virginia Wright, interviewed business owners like Kara Wilbur Bensen, who moved to Gardiner four years ago with her husband. Bensen said Gardiner "has everything you would want in a downtown whose historic fabric is still intact" and "exciting energy, where the efforts of residents and business owners is supported by the city."
Wright, who lives in Camden, said she has done quite a bit of writing about greater Portland landmarks, which heightened her appreciation for preserved downtowns like Gardiner's.
Wright said at first she noticed downtown Gardiner had a number of vacant storefronts and felt it was "ripe for renewal."
"Then I began talking to people, and I learned that this beautiful downtown was the result of a long, sustained effort -- more than 20 years in the making," she said.
City Manager Scott Morelli said Gardiner has great things happening and it's nice to have someone from outside recognize and celebrate that in a popular magazine article.
He said Gardiner is pursuing economic and community development initiatives including a new community-focused website, an updated comprehensive plan, and master plans for downtown historical district, city-owned Libby Hill Business Park, Cobbossee corridor and waterfront park.
Two years ago, the city hired a marketing firm to help step up marking efforts to promote downtown and the business park.
Last month, Nate Rudy, Gardiner's economic and community development director, joined the Fontaine Team of Auburn to represent city-owned properties, including the commercial land at Libby Hill.
The city also received a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation for a two-year planning initiative.
Wright said she often hears about efforts to revive downtowns, but Gardiner stands out for the way it has kept the momentum going and for the shared vision of its business people, residents and city officials.
Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner's Main Street program -- and no relation to Virginia Wright -- said he has been working with Rudy to cultivate an image and branding effort for the city that is a true reflection of Gardiner's challenges and opportunities.
"The challenge is in hitting the right avenues to get folks like Down East magazine to pay attention," Wright said.