WATERVILLE — The city has been invited to apply for a planning grant that could lead, eventually, to receiving a total of $400,000 to help improve the lives of low-income people in the South and North Ends of the city, as well as downtown.

The Working Communities Challenge Grant initiative is sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. In December, Garvan Donegan, director of planning, innovation and economic development for the Central Maine Growth Council, sent a letter of interest on behalf of the city saying it wanted to be included in the process. The city was notified it had been invited to be included and now is applying for a design grant.

“We have until Jan. 31 to come up with a final application to be asked into the next round or the next step in the process,” Former City Manager Michael Roy told the City Council on Tuesday.

If accepted into the next step, the city and seven other communities in Maine would get $25,000 to plan for how to make improvements in the Waterville Corridor Project, which is what the city’s application calls the area to benefit from the grant.

Communities that take part in the design phase will be eligible to apply for the implementation phase. If approved, that application could net the city up to $375,000 to implement the plans. Only five will get final planning grant funds.

A pedestrian crosses Main Street in downtown Waterville on June 3. Installation of water mains precedes the planned conversion of one-way streets into two-way streets. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel file Buy this Photo

The area the city’s letter of interest describes as being targeted for improvement is “along the low income band of the Kennebec River encompassing the South End, Downtown, and the North End. Waterville Corridor Project will capture recent growth and population trends to successfully transition our post-mill economy by focusing on collaborative housing initiatives, place-based economics, and driving connectivity between urban cores and residential neighborhoods.”

The city, Growth Council, Waterville Creates!, Colby College, city planners, city councilors and others got involved in the process, Roy told the council Tuesday. The city’s letter of interest cites many community partners in the effort, including South End Neighborhood Association, Waterville Community Land Trust, South End Teen Center, Waterville Area Habitat for Humanity, Waterville Public Library, Colby and Thomas colleges, and more.

The design grant application says the Working Communities Challenge supports local teams working together to improve economic outcomes for all people in Maine’s towns, cities and rural communities.

“Successful teams will address economic growth and reduce inequity of opportunity tied to race, ethnicity and other aspects of identity and background. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (Boston Fed), the State of Maine, national and local philanthropy, and private sector businesses support the three-year grant challenge.

“The partnership in Maine is informed by Boston Fed research that examined smaller cities across the country that had not fared well over the past half-century. Finding that a subset of these communities was able to turn their economies around for the better, Boston Fed economists asked, ‘What did it take for those places to change course?’ They found that success was dependent on how well leaders collaborated across the business, public, and nonprofit sectors to pursue a common, long-term vision for the community.”

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