'Downtown Tomorrow' forum to help guide Bath Comp Plan update

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BATH — The city and the Main Street Bath organization are seeking community input on how to shape downtown in the next few years.

A “Downtown Tomorrow” visioning forum will be held at the Winter Street Center, 880 Washington St., from 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3. Craig Freshley of Good Group Decisions will facilitate.

“We can take that information and figure out how our organization might evolve with the hopes and dreams of the public for the future,” Mari Eosco, interim director of MSB and chairwoman of the City Council, said Feb. 21.

MSB since 2001 has earned a variety of honors like the 2012 Great American Main Street Award, and promoted Bath through activities like Heritage Days and Mayfair.

The organization, which is undergoing a strategic planning process, will “be using the same information (as the city) in similar ways, but for different reasons,” Eosco said, noting the need to strengthen the organization and serve more businesses and citizens.

City planners, meanwhile, intend to use what they glean as they update Bath’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan.

“We’re going to examine it as it is laid out,” Planning Director Andrew Deci said Feb. 21. “What were the goals, what has been accomplished, what needs to change when it comes to our plans and ideas for the future.”

The March 3 forum “will inform the downtown area,” he added. “What are our policies for development going to be in this area?”

For instance, he said, should the downtown be bigger, with more housing? What kinds of barriers block that course of development? What strategies will be used to retain and grow businesses?

“Ultimately, the downtown is the core of our community, and that’s where we focus our commercial activity,” Deci said.

It makes no sense for the city and MSB to explore the downtown’s future separately, he noted, adding, “let’s have one unified vision for the downtown … that’s why we’re doing this as a partnership.”

An updated Comprehensive Plan could go before the City Council in mid-2019.

The forum will feature small group discussions along with exercises among smaller groups. People have already been sharing thoughts on the event’s Facebook page: facebook.com/groups/downtowntomorrow.

The desire for a playground is one prevalent theme Eosco has seen on the page.

“Having children, I think that having places for them to play downtown is very important,” she agree, noting that in the meantime, the upcoming Riverwalk park, down by the Sagadahoc Bridge, will have “playful elements.”

A “splash pad” – a fountain that sprays water for people to run through – has been another common request. Shoe stores, more businesses and gathering places open in the evening, a bakery and a food truck have also been mentioned on the Facebook page.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.