Approximately 80 Camden citizens gathered Jan. 26 at the Camden Opera House for the first of two community meetings designed to offer an opportunity for residents to address the goals of a Downtown Master Plan.

The meeting included an information segment, describing the background and purpose of the master plan, and opportunities for large and small group discussion.

“We started with a presentation and discussion with the whole group, and then went into small break-out discussions,” said Camden Town Manager Patricia Finnigan, after the meeting. “Participants were asked to identify their hopes and concerns about downtown Camden. Some of the common themes were:

  • Retain Camden’s quality of life and the qualities that make Camden “Camden,” and strengthen them.
  • Maintain a feeling of community.
  • Jobs: Attract business and jobs to the downtown. People said jobs will strengthen Camden’s year-round economy.
  • Bringing more employees to the downtown will increase the vibrancy of the downtown.
  • Create shared office space with modern technology. This will help start-up businesses and small businesses.
  • Things to do for families with young children.
  • Improve walkability. Be pedestrian friendly, create pathways that connect the downtown areas that are beyond Elm and Main streets.
  • Signs need to be clearer and more helpful.
  • Parking: People articulated a need for additional parking and said visitors don’t know how to find existing parking.
  • Nightlife: There was a lot of interest in movies, more things to do in general, and places to go for food and drinks after a performance at the Opera House or other venue.
  • Build on current successes by attracting more conferences.
  • The Public Landing should be more than a parking lot.

Camden Development Director Brian Hodges said Jan. 16 that the Camden Downtown Master Plan will be different from the previous studies, reports and analyses because it will provide a road map of where and what citizens want Camden’s downtown to be over the next five to 10 years.

The plan will include an inventory of resources in the district and list action items and tasks related to the sustainability of Camden’s downtown. The findings will be incorporated into the work plans of Camden’s Development Office, the Camden Economic Development Advisory Committee, Camden Downtown Business Group, and Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce.

In October, the town selected a team led by Lachman Architects and Planners of Portland to develop the plan.

Hodges said at the time that completion of the plan might mean no major changes, other than seeking and identifying ways to keep the downtown vibrant. He said challenges such as finding ways to draw visitors to side streets such as Bayview and Mechanic streets might be addressed by the final plan.

The Camden Select Board authorized using $20,000 from the Economic Development Reserve Fund to hire the consulting firm.

In addition to holding public meetings, the work plan and schedule for the Camden Downtown Master Plan includes performing site reviews, identifying alternative revenue sources and recommending strategies that will help Camden move toward having a sustainable downtown that includes year-round jobs. A final plan is expected on or before March 30.

For more information, contact Hodges at bhodges@camdenmaine.gov or 236-3353, ext. 103.