With the help of a Community Development Block Grant, Thomaston has begun a historical restoration and improvement project for some downtown buildings. To access grant funding for a second phase of the project, residents will be asked at town meeting to declare a slum and blight area behind the business block.

Work began this week on the historical restoration of the facades of some buildings in downtown Thomaston.

Rockland Community Development Director Rodney Lynch was in Thomaston May 4 overseeing work on the buildings from 179 to 185 Main St., including Athens Mediterranean Pizzeria.

Lynch said the work is part of a $150,000 Community Development Block Grant the town has received for upgrades to its business block.

Anchor Enterprises of Cushing and SAB Restorations of Rockland were sanding and painting the historic cornices on the buildings. Over the years, Lynch said, the different owners of the buildings painted the cornices separately. This new project will create one uniform look to the redone cornices.

In addition, the project will upgrade the facades at the back of the business block where many people park and access downtown businesses through their back doors.

Lynch said the work will go through the summer.

A public meeting will be held Thursday, May 20 with all of the downtown property owners as well as the general public invited. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at Watts Hall. Lynch and representatives from Lachman Architects & Planners will be available at that meeting to discuss plans for the next phase of the project.

That phase will involve improving the streetscaping behind the business block.

Town Manager Valmore Blastow said $50,000 of the grant funding has not yet been allocated. He said to access that funding for the back of the business block off Starr Street, residents will have to vote to accept a declaration of slum and blight in that area at the June 9 town meeting.

The language in the town warrant states, “That there exists in the town of Thomaston a deteriorating, dilapidated, slum and blighted area, dangerous buildings, deficient public improvements and incompatible uses of property, which constitute a serious and growing menace, injurious and inimical to the public health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the town off Thomaston.”

Denis Lachman noted some of the issues behind the business block in a letter to Lynch and Blastow. One goal of the project would be to provide safe pedestrian connections from Main Street to the school campus behind the business block. One area being looked at is the alley between the Masonic Hall and Thomaston Grocery. “Currently there is a guardrail, but the path is uninviting and ambiguous,” Lachman said.

In addition, he said that behind the business block in general, “there is no safe separation between pedestrians and vehicles …”

There are also concerns about the propane tanks and utilities at the back of the Main Street businesses. “To improve the situation, several gas tanks might be moved and consolidated on a nearby town-owned property,” Lachman said. Blastow pointed out the town-owned properties on a map of the area, showing that they would be behind the business block.

The town manager explained that rather than having each business have its own gas tanks, they could enter into an agreement to share some new buried tanks that would be installed farther back on this town property and then have meters to monitor individual usage.

He said part of the goal is to get all the business owners working together as a team for the improvement of the block.

Blastow said such a project will cost more than $50,000. He said the goal is to have it planned and designed and then do the work over time. He said it is possible to plan for 10 years down the road.

The town election will be Tuesday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the American Legion. Town meeting will be Wednesday, June 9 at 7 p.m. at the American Legion.