The Arcade parking lot in front of McKay Park in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

GARDINER — When Scott Klinger moved to Gardiner about a year ago, he found a lot to like.

“There’s a really amazing history to the town for lots of different reasons,” Klinger said. “The signage that’s gone up in recent years has been great, but I think there’s probably more that can be done.”

He said he hopes for something that makes Gardiner a desirable destination that draws more visitors, such as a museum or other attraction.

Klinger was one of more than a dozen people who gathered Thursday at the Gardiner Public Library for a presentation on the city’s proposed downtown master plan, which is nearing completion.

The Heart of Gardiner plan, which has been in the works for about a year, outlines a series of recommendations intended to strengthen downtown Gardiner’s sense of place, build economic vibrancy and help the city and its downtown develop environmental resilience.

Klinger’s ideas will become part of the feedback being collected before the plan is submitted Dec. 1 to the Gardiner City Council for consideration.


The plan contains seven recommendations, including enhancing the gateways to the downtown area, making the neighborhood accessible to all and redeveloping the Arcade parking lot, between Water Street and Cobbosseecontee Stream.

It also suggests building a network of green stormwater infrastructures and taking part in regional flood resilience studies.

As part of the proposed strategy, several changes are suggested for the Arcade lot, including changing the lot to one-way traffic to increase the number of parking spaces by nearly 20 and introducing rain gardens to store and clean storm runoff before it flows into Cobbosseecontee Stream.

Along with the rain gardens, the lot would also have snow storage areas to accommodate snow clearing activities.

The proposal suggests adding patios to the back of Water Street buildings that overlook the Arcade lot and the stream, adding an attractive element to the buildings and creating storage for utilities and covered parking below them.

Claire Marron, who owns a Water Street building that overlooks the lot and business, said she likes the idea but is not sure adding them to some buildings would be possible.


“We have a deck currently, with our parking underneath,” Marron said. “We have that because we own the parcel behind our building. Most buildings don’t. It’s city property.”

McKay Park in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Marron said she has had conversations with the Office of the State Fire Marshal about what is required — wood decks would require a sprinkler system, for instance, and while metal decks would not need that, they are more costly to install.

Dayton Crites, who works for Dubois & King Inc., the large consulting firm hired to shepherd the master plan process, presented the draft plan by videoconference. Crites said other New England downtown communities have used decks. Doing it in Gardiner would require a public-private partnership, he said, adding he would review the fire codes to better understand the requirements.

Logan Johnston, a former city councilor and a downtown building owner, said one of the challenges facing plans for downtown Gardiner is its location in a floodway and a flood zone imposes an extra level of scrutiny.

“One of the challenges that we always have is sometimes our dreams and our plans run contrary to what either the federal government, our state government and, in some cases, our (Maine) Department of Transportation have with what exactly we can do,” Johnston said, noting Water Street is a state road.

Crites said in drafting the plan’s recommendations, items that would require partnerships to accomplish or might not comply with existing regulations were flagged with that information.

The plan is the result of a collaboration of the city of Gardiner, Gardiner Main Street, the Gardiner Library Association and the Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, funded through the Coastal Community Grants program and revenue from Gardiner’s Downtown TIF District.

McKay Park, left, and the Arcade parking lot in downtown Gardiner. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Thursday’s meeting kicked off a comment period that concludes Friday, Nov. 12. Comments can be submitted electronically to Crites at Dubois & King.

Comments can also be forwarded to Tracey Desjardins, Gardiner’s economic development director.

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