Group seeks to ally with national organization to revitalize downtown



ELLSWORTH — In an ongoing effort to revitalize downtown, a group of volunteers is setting out to become part of a program that supports similar renewal efforts in cities around the country.

“Now is our time to let Maine know that Ellsworth is a destination,” said Heart of Ellsworth Executive Director Cara Romano in an email.

The group, which consists of local business owners, residents and city representatives overseen by the Heart of Ellsworth, is in the midst of a lengthy application process.

The goal? To become a Maine Downtown Affiliate Community. If the city is approved, the designation would allow the group to access a slew of resources aimed at refreshing local communities.

There are a lot of ways to attract visitors to downtown, said Anne Ball, who directs the Maine Downtown Center Program, in a presentation to participants.

Green spaces are important, as are clear signage and proper lighting. Amenities such as free Wi-Fi are also a plus, and it also helps to have a downtown “brand” that can be plastered onto tote bags, T-shirts and mugs, as well as community-building events.

As of March, there were 17 communities participating in the Maine Downtown Affiliate program, all of which are in the early stages of downtown revitalization. Bucksport and Bar Harbor are on the list, as are Castine and Stonington.

The designation is under the umbrella of a national program, Main Street America, which uses a four-point approach to boost downtown areas around the country: economic vitality, design, promotion and organization.

“Downtowns don’t just happen by accident,” said Mary Kate Reny, whose family started the Renys chain of department stores, in a statement on the organization’s website.

Reny said the company has “been attracted to these communities for many years when opening a new storefront” and that “The Main Street communities create an environment where it makes it a little easier to get a business off the ground and where businesses are more likely to succeed.”

Heart of Ellsworth has been behind several community-building events in recent months, including last fall’s Art of Ellsworth, the Downeast Cider and Cheese Festival and the Taste of Ellsworth.

Later this spring, the group will be conducting a survey aimed at gauging what local residents are interested in seeing downtown.

For more information and to find out how to participate in the affiliate community application process, visit heartofellsworth.org/affiliate-community.

Kate Cough

Kate Cough

Kate covers the city of Ellsworth, including the Ellsworth School Department and the city police beat, as well as the towns of Amherst, Aurora, Eastbrook, Great Pond, Mariaville, Osborn, Otis and Waltham. She lives in Southwest Harbor and welcomes story tips and ideas. She can be reached at [email protected]

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