Main Street Bath
2012 Great American Main Street Award
Award Type: GAMSA
The Numbers: Over 20 Years
- Main street began: 1991
- Population: 8,875
- Net new jobs: 212
- Net new businesses: 42
- Building Rehabs: 13
- New buildings: 2
- Vacancy rate when Main Street Bath started: 8%
- Vacancy rate now: 2%
- Public investment: $103,993,039
- Private investment: $144,137,924
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In Their Own Words
Main Street Bath is unique because it is the result of the major transformation of a successful business group that was able to embrace the idea that the vitality of downtown was also about the heart and soul of the city, not just the dollars and cents. We stand out for our ability to proactively seek solutions to overcome obstacles, beginning with our invitation to the Main Street assessment team to Bath in 1999. Since adopting the Main Street approach, we have been modeling the way for downtown revitalization in Maine through collaborations and innovation. We developed a “three-legged stool” approach, enlisting support from businesses, residents, and city government, and mandating equal representation of their interests on our board. Main Street Bath’s “Business Barometer” roundtable program has pulled together the downtown merchants, remarkable for their candor and collaborative spirit, and is widely copied by other communities. We solved the problem of multiple spreadsheets to track donations and volunteers through development of a customized relational database. Media sales representatives volunteer on the Promotions Committee, and spread the word about promotions. The city government designates economic development funds to our program and collaborates with us on beautification projects. Community volunteers invest time, talent and energy, and share the workload. The staff is invigorated and empowered by the community support. In short, we have leveraged Maine’s traditions of neighborliness, cooperation, and our Yankee “can-do” spirit to make downtown the place we love to live, work and play… and that others love to visit.
They're Not Done Yet!
Q: What are your district’s strategic initiatives for the next five years?
A: Main Street Bath has been largely successful in preserving our historic downtown architecture and revitalizing the district as an economic engine for Bath. Looking forward, we must address challenges to downtown’s continued success.
- Challenge: Our downtown will soon lose a deteriorating newer building that once housed the YMCA; another badly neglected historic building was already razed leaving a hole in a downtown block; and a vacant waterfront lot was recently put on the market.
- Strategy: Actively monitor development plans and advocate for appropriate uses based on survey findings, and our shared vision for the downtown as identified through the branding process.
- Challenge: Bath, and Maine in general, has an aging population. To continue to grow our economy and replace leadership and volunteers we must attract a younger demographic to our program and young families to our city.
- Strategy: Actively seek out businesses and create playgrounds and other outdoor infrastructure in the downtown to serve young families. Plans are currently in place to create a Main Street Bath “young leaders” group that can build a social network while taking on relevant projects.
- Challenge: Stay authentic, stay year-round while developing tourism.
- Strategy: It’s the graceful balance of heritage and modern industry, the pretty and the gritty, that gives Bath its unique flavor. Downtown Bath's historic architecture is picturesque, but the spice is the view of the #11 crane at BIW. By being clear about what constitutes our appeal, we can sustain the authentic cultural experience that Bath provides