SKOWHEGAN — Main Street Skowhegan is expanding its designated project area beyond the downtown business district to include all of Skowhegan — and possibly beyond.

The new map of the Main Street sphere of influence closely matches the boundaries set for the town’s downtown tax increment financing district, but also stretches to areas that traditionally have not been served by the nonprofit revitalization group.

The new map includes businesses on Madison Avenue, the island, where the Federated Church is, and businesses across the river, but also includes the Kennebec River Gorge, where a white-water park is planned.

“We’re extremely excited about this,” Maine Street Skowhegan Executive Director Kristina Cannon said. “It means that more people are going to be included in this. People are going to be happy. Skowhegan is on the verge of something big right now, and Main Street wants to be involved with others to raise Skowhegan up.”

Areas including North Avenue, where there are several businesses, are in Main Street’s overall expansion but not on the TIF map, which is used by Main Street for reporting to the Main Downtown Center, the mother ship of the state’s 10-member Main Street Maine coalition.

“It will include more jurisdiction for the Main Street organization,” board president Matt Dubois, of The Bankery, said. “All of the Main Street organizations on the whole are kind of going through a morphing process, more toward a project-based focus. However, we can help out on the town level — Skowhegan as a whole — because economic development is what we really want to focus on.”

Dubois and Cannon said the group is focusing less on physical boundaries and more on the town as an entire community.

Advantages to businesses outside of downtown are that Main Street no longer is concentrating on “invisible walls.” The new focus of the board is economic development for the entire town, Dubois said.

Main Street Skowhegan is involved with the new TIF Oversight Committee along with the Chamber of Commerce, Skowhegan town officials and the Somerset Economic Development Committee in developing a plan for the future, they said.

TIF agreements, which are established through the state Department of Economic and Community Development, capture tax revenue from new development and dedicate them to town economic development. The oversight committee is tasked with preparing updated information for the selectmen and the town about the TIF’s effectiveness and the potential benefit of renewing the downtown TIF, which will expire in March 2017 after a 12-year run, said committee chairman Amber Lambke, owner of the Somerset Grist Mill. Revenue from any new development is sheltered or placed in a special account the town can use to pay for approved projects related to economic development.

Cannon, who took over as executive director in September, said it was a promotion for the Skowhegan Holiday Stroll that made her realize that expanding the Main Street district to possibly include neighboring towns would help Skowhegan.

“Our plan is to include businesses in the entire Skowhegan area,” Cannon said. “Any projects or planning initiatives that we do, our plan is to include everyone.”

Main Street’s “Passport to Savings” during Small Business Saturday included businesses in Madison, she said.

“We didn’t want our boundaries to limit us in our ability to drive economic development,” Cannon said. “We want to make sure there are no barriers to us becoming an economic development vehicle. The goal of Main Street is to help businesses by bringing people to the downtown and to Skowhegan in general.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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