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How to implement Riverfront Island Master Plan

The Lewiston Riverfront Island Master Plan Committee and consultants Goody Clancy have released a draft of the master plan that outlines an ambitious agenda to make Lewiston-Auburn into Maine’s premier urban riverfront destination.

The Riverfront Island master plan would be accomplished through four goals:

1. Tap the power of the river—through access to the water’s edge, a more active riverfront and stronger connections to downtown neighborhoods.

2. Attract a vital mix of new uses—including new housing, cultural destinations, workplaces, a new Canal Park, and the parking needed to support these new destinations—through reuse of older buildings and construction of new ones.

3. Make the district more walkable—to unlock the potential of Riverfront Island’s many assets

4. Insist on quality in both public and private investment—to attract desired businesses and visitors, and so that the Riverfront grows as a place the L-A community can take pride in.

In the past several weeks Twin City TIMES has published details of the goals. This week, TCT publishes the section of the report that recommends steps to implement the plan.

See the entire plan at http://www.lewistonmaine.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?aid=193.

The Lewiston Riverfront Island Master Plan provides an overall framework for guiding change within the riverfront area over the next several years. The master plan is shaped by an overarching vision, but will be implemented in several steps—big and small.

Key next steps in moving from planning to implementation include:

Seek formal City Council support for the plan. The Lewiston City Council will play a key role in advancing several aspects of the master plan in the years to come. Council support will be very important to advancing the plan. While several elected officials have contributed to development of the plan, the completed plan should be presented to the council for its endorsement.

Continue to work closely with Auburn to establish a strategy for ongoing collaboration in implementing the plan. Effective implementation of the master plan will provide significant benefits for both Lewiston and Auburn. Many members of the Auburn community have participated in shaping the plan.  Lewiston and Auburn should discuss possible mechanism for more formal collaboration in moving the plan forward to include fundraising and other aspects.

Identify who will be responsible for marketing, monitoring, and advancing the plan. The master plan advisory committee has played a key role in shaping this plan. It is critical that the L-A community help to sustain the momentum needed for implementing the plan over the months and years to come.

A group will be needed to help pursue initiatives such as the Riverwalk, amphitheater steps/small boat dock, the Oxford Street Canal Walk and the Cross Canal link to Lisbon Street. The group could help the city in evaluating design options for infrastructure improvements. The group could support the City in evaluating development proposals for Bates Mill No. 5 and other key sites.

Take steps to resolve the future of Bates Mill No. 5 site. The City of Lewiston has worked for many years to preserve and reuse the Bates Mill No. 5 building and incorporate it as a centerpiece of the riverfront district. Despite these efforts, securing an economically viable reuse of the building has remained elusive for two primary reasons: the layout of the structure is not optimal for most potential reuses and the very high cost of rehabilitating the exterior.

The master plan explored several options for reusing the property and concluded that the most viable option will involve its demolition and redevelopment for a mix of open space, retail and possibly civic uses. Lewiston City Council should consider moving forward with authorizing demolition and preparation of the site for future redevelopment.

In the period immediately following demolition, the site should be used for open space on an interim basis. Over time it is anticipated that the city will issue a Request for Development Proposals for redevelopment of portions of the property, potentially in conjunction with development of a new Canal Park and possible civic use.

Advance the downtown hotel proposal—and pursue other public-private partnerships—to bring additional high-quality development to the district. Continue to coordinate with the hotel developers and other private sector entities to ensure that development is consistent with the goals of this plan.

Explore potential for institutional participation within Riverfront Island. The city’s major medical and educational institutions currently have no presence or visibility within Riverfront Island, which can become the region’s defining public space and a cornerstone in shaping Lewiston’s evolving identity. Major institutions across the nation are increasingly playing a prominent role in downtown-revitalization efforts.

The presence of these major Lewiston institutions within the riverfront area would serve as a boost for the city and the district, showcasing the prominent role of these institutions in the city’s future. The City of Lewiston should initiate and continue discussions with potential institutional partners—e.g., Bates College, Central Maine Medical Center, Kaplan University, St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center and USM’s Lewiston- Auburn College—to explore interest and ability to assist in moving the plan forward.

Seek funding for key public improvements. Use this plan as a tool for communicating the goals and vision for the downtown riverfront. Seek state, federal and other sources of funding.

Move forward with a public-private partnership program to secure use of available private parking to meet district needs. Through cooperative efforts with property owners, the City should develop a program that ensures efficient use of private parking spaces for an interim period in a manner than benefits property owners and the city.

Develop key zoning amendments for consideration by the council. Revisit zoning related to shared parking regulations, Shoreline zoning provisions, and space/bulk requirements to ensure consistency with plan goals. Continue to work to secure public control and ownership of canals.

Continue to explore a variety of approaches to securing control of the city’s canal network for a variety of public purposes. Support Museum L-A’s efforts to move forward with its waterfront site. Museum L-A will serve as an important new anchor for the riverfront, and every effort should be made to assist it in moving forward.

Work cooperatively with waterfront property owners to incorporate a Riverwalk on private property in advance of property development. Development of the Continental Mill segment of the Riverwalk as a public amenity could enhance the attractiveness of the property for reuse and serve as a development catalyst.

Continue efforts to coordinate downtown planning with regional entities such as the Androscoggin Land Trust and the Androscoggin Valley Council of Government. For instance, seek to maximize the impact of improvements within the downtown riverfront area through links to regional open space and trail networks.

Focus on advancing near-term catalyst projects. Completion of quickly do-able, high-visibility will provide benefits that all can enjoy and bring momentum to advance longer-term projects.

Phasing of Improvements: Work on implementing the master plan will move forward in many steps, and sequencing will to some extent be determined by funding availability and other variables. Key priorities will reflect plan themes around establishing a Riverwalk, attracting new uses with a particular focus on housing and development of Museum L-A and strengthening connections within the district.

Key first steps may include: Focus on enhancing Simard-Payne (Railroad) Park. Improve the visibility of the River from the park and provide access to the water’s edge. Improve the River’s visibility from and connection to Lincoln Street through development of a small park adjacent to the Grand Trunk Depot Building. Improve the Oxford Street streetscape along the edge of the park and provide a new bridge over the canal to improve access.

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