Water Street in downtown Hallowell is busy Wednesday. The City Council on Monday approved a new comprehensive plan that is expected to guide the city’s actions over the next decade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — After two years of hard work, Hallowell has a new comprehensive plan for the first time since 2010.

The plan, expected to guide the city’s actions over the next decade, encompasses a plethora of future goals for the city, with a focus on adding affordable housing, increasing downtown accessibility for older residents, finding new uses for city-owned buildings and creating a “Kennebec arts corridor” with the nearby communities of Augusta and Gardiner.

The City Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve the plan after the state completed its review of the document in late October.

Hallowell officials opted to add two sections to the comprehensive plan that are not required by state law, pertaining to arts and culture, and recreation, families and youth.

“We have a whole section on arts and culture and that is not an area that the state planning standards even require, but it’s something that is extremely fundamental to what Hallowell is,” said Drew Landry, chair of Hallowell’s Comprehensive Planning Group. “So we want to recognize that as being a core value of the community, and we wanted to express in the plan ways to try to ensure that that aspect of Hallowell community continues to thrive and hopefully expand.”

As for recreational opportunities, the plan outlines a desire to identify underutilized public or private properties that could be used to increase indoor, public activities year-round.


The plan also recommends taking a proactive approach to preparing for solar and electric vehicle infrastructure, investing in and preserving open space, addressing vacant buildings downtown, exploring ways to encourage businesses to stay in Hallowell and creating a Climate Resilience Committee to plan for sea level rise and extreme weather events.

Michel-Paul Cyr paints Wednesday in his Michel Paul Artist Studio, located on Water Street in downtown Hallowell. The city’s recently approved comprehensive plan outlines a desire to support local artists and work with Augusta and Gardiner to create a “Kennebec arts corridor.” Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Stephen Cole, a regional planner for the Maine Department of Transportation, commended the plan in a letter included in the council packet.

“With a population of only 2,500, this ‘Little, Big City’ contributes a great deal more to civic life in Maine that its size would suggest,” he wrote, adding that he particularly liked the goal of addressing mobility issues by devoting more planning and funding to making the city accessible to people with disabilities among other goals such as upgrading public sidewalks.

Throughout the life of the plan, Mayor George Lapointe said the council will meet regularly to discuss the community’s progress in meeting all the goals. He said councilors will likely begin meeting in March to look at a “score sheet” that will help track how far along the city is in meeting each of the plan’s objectives.

“There’s so much in there that we have to break it down into manageable pieces to understand it, and to see where we are with implementation,” he said.

Patrick Cunningham, a member of Hallowell’s Comprehensive Planning Group, said that the previous comprehensive plan was “very clear,” as it focused on addressing and renovating the Stevens School Campus, which at the time had several vacant buildings.


For this plan, on the other hand, Cunningham said the group set a range of municipal goals based on community feedback and work with consultant Jeff Levine of Levine Planning.

“One of the main things we tried to address was guidance around affordable housing in Hallowell,” he said, “and the idea of trying to retain and encourage our artistic residents, like musicians and people of that nature that Hallowell has been known for for so many years.”

“Bloom,” a sculpture by artist Isabel Catherine Kelley, is located beside the Kennebec River Rail Trail in Granite City Parkin Hallowell. Some of the key goals in the city’s recently approved comprehensive plan include expanding access to arts and recreational opportunities. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Much of their discussion included going over qualities that made Hallowell appealing to residents and business owners.

“We didn’t have any big, huge issues like (the Stevens School campus),” he said. “It was more everyone coming together and discussing all the things that make Hallowell a great place to live.”

He said one of the most difficult parts of the work was obtaining public input and public participation during the pandemic.

“We really tried our hardest to get input through surveys and trying to be present at public goings-on,” he said.


Landry, chair of the Comprehensive Planning Group, said that while the pandemic certainly made public feedback difficult, he felt that they ultimately were able to engage the community and that their concerns were reflected in the plan.

Water Street in downtown Hallowell is seen Wednesday. The City Council on Monday approved a new comprehensive plan, which is expected to guide the city’s actions over the next decade. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Both Landry and Cunningham said the public showed a great deal of interest in maintaining outdoor activities and recreation opportunities at spots such as Vaughan Woods and the rail trail.

The public also weighed in on accessibility, Cunningham said, and difficulties that older community members can face while walking up and down the hill downtown.

“I think it was a good process,” he said, “and I hope we provided a useful document for city planning in the future.”

The mayor encouraged residents to look at the complete plan on the city website.

“People could look through it and see which parts of it strike their interest or passion,” he said. “And to look at occasionally and see if there are things in there (where we) are doing a good job or we need to accelerate. I think it’s a worthwhile thing for people to look at.”

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