A dedication ceremony set for Oct. 2 for the Mid-Town Mall stairway in Sanford marks a critical step in a series of ongoing projects connected with the Sanford downtown revitalization plan.
“I'm anxious to see the park there,” said Maura Herlihy, a Sanford town councilor and chairwoman of the board of directors of Sanford Downtown Legacy, a nonprofit group that aims to redevelop the downtown area.
The town has been involved in a series of projects that have all began coming to fruition within the past year. During the summer, the Town Council voted separate the Sanford Mill building on Washington Street from the downtown tax increment financing district, effectively creating a separate district for the building. That move cleared the way for a long-anticipated renovation project there to begin.
Rick Stanley, president of the Sanford Chamber of Commerce, said work began this week on the building's interior. Northland Enterprises, the Portland-based development firm that now owns the building, is planning for business leasing on the lower floor, and 36 units of housing upstairs.
Town officials have been working for years on projects to beautify the downtown, in hopes of attracting more developers and businesses. This week, town officials announced an Oct. 2 dedication ceremony for the recently completed Mid-Town Mall stairs.“There's a few very minor details left,” said Jamie Cole, Sanford's code enforcement officer.
The $235,000 fixture, paid for with a combination of grants and town money, is designed to allow people to move easily from the front of the mall area to the back, and also to see the falls behind the mall, across Riverside Boulevard, at the tip of Number One Pond, Herlihy said.
Stanley said the work the town is doing in the downtown area speaks volumes to the “business-friendly” designation Gov. Paul LePage gave Sanford earlier this year. “I am really pleased that the town has made a commitment to improvements in the downtown area,” he said. Stanley said the governor's proclamation, like the downtown improvements, all affect the town's image, which is vital to bringing in new businesses.
“Appearance in the community is very important when you're trying to sell the downtown to prospects,” he said. The next step, Herlihy said, is a planned park at the corner of Riverside and Washington streets. The council, she said, has voted to purchase two buildings on the property, and demolish them to make way for the park, using a $500,000 grant to do the work. That, combined with the stairs, she said, will provide a view that will attract more visitors, and business, to the area.
“It makes it feel like a real downtown,” she said. “Once those buildings are down, the waterfall is going to be beautiful.” The exact timeline on the park is not clear yet, but Cole said he thinks work will begin on it sometime next year. The mill building, he said, is expected to be finished by next summer.
“The downtown revitalization has started, and it's in full force,” he said.