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Maine Development Foundation


Group Considers Merits of York Village

Susan Morse


February 23rd, 2011

YORK — More than 50 residents, town officials and business owners told the director of a downtown revitalization agency Wednesday there's much to love about downtown York Village.

Roxanne Eflin, program director the Maine Development Foundation in Augusta, asked about the village's best selling points to kickoff an exploration of how to make this section of town a more vibrant, pedestrian-friendly place.

The history, the architecture, the church bells of the First Parish Church, the lights during the holidays, Town Hall, and the ability to walk to the small shops and restaurants were among many of the reasons given to love York Village, members of the group shouted out to Eflin.

"A lot of what we're talking about is a sense of place," Eflin said.

Her visit to the Remick Barn in the center of town is one of many steps being taken as town officials, local residents, businesses and nonprofits downtown start talking about the revitalization of York Village.

Elfin was invited to speak by Scott Stevens, executive director of the Museums of Old York, which is in the village. In recent months, attention has turned to this area of town, as it did a number of years ago to the center of York Beach.

Last October, the museums, the First Parish Church, and a newly formed York Village Business Association created a Marketfest event in York Village after the Greater York Region Chamber of Commerce moved its annual Harvestfest from the village to York Beach.

Town Manager Rob Yandow, fulfilling a goal of the Board of Selectmen, met with members of the York Village Business Association this past December and heard their concerns. The business owners said they want a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, and more parking, signs and traffic control to get people to stop and shop in the village.

Selectmen hired CLD Engineers in 2010 to do a traffic and safety study of the busy village intersection of Route 1A and Long Sands Road.

The Board of Selectmen is forming a new York Village Subcommittee to study the firm's recommendations as it examines how to make safety improvements and get people to shop in downtown York Village.

The nine-member subcommittee will consist of three residents, two of whom must live in the village; a York Hospital representative; Stevens or someone else from the Museums of Old York; a member of the Planning Board; a representative from the Board of Selectmen; and two members of the York Village Business Association. The committee is expected to be formed by the end of March, according to Yandow.

About 30 years ago, when many retail centers moved out of downtown areas, the Natural Trust for Historic Preservation came up with a four-point approach for successful downtown centers, according to Eflin. The four points are organization, promotion, economic restructuring and design.

After breaking into groups, forum-goers cited needs of a central parking area, signs, benches, an inventory of buildings in the village, consistent zoning, maps, a website, and a plan moving forward.

"This was rewarding to see it coming together," said Antonia DeSoto, owner of Beyond the Sea, on York Street. "It feels great."

"We're just beginning an organizing committee, to see how this can actually happen," said Gloria Gustafson, who heads the usiness association.

The Maine Development Foundation is the umbrella nonprofit organization for the Maine Downtown Center which offers communities the first step of becoming a Maine Downtown Network, and then becoming a part of a Main Street Maine community, based on the nationwide program. The Maine Downtown Network program offers towns support, technical services, training and more, for $250 to $1,000 a year, depending on the town's population. With the Main Street Maine designation towns get $30,000 worth of services and assistance for $750 a year, according to Eflin. Becoming a Main Street Maine community requires the formation of a separate nonprofit organization with staff and a board of directors, she said.

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