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Committee members brainstorm possibilities for Madawaska plaza

MADAWASKA, Maine — Members of the Mid-Town Shopping Plaza Committee met for the first time March 12 to bounce around ideas and determine the best uses for the town acquired property near the farmer’s market.

At the end of last year, the Connecticut-based real estate firm, Mid-Town Realty Associates, donated all of its plaza area property to the town, including the large parking lot in front of what used to be The Cubby and Modern Touch Salon.

One of the acquired buildings, where The Cubby and Modern Touch Salon were once located, is adjacent to, but does not include the Kmart facility. The other acquired building once housed 13 residents in second story apartments and retail businesses, including a Spectrum office, underneath. Only the Spectrum office remains occupied in either of the buildings.

In February, the Board of Selectmen decided to appoint a committee of 11 members to brainstorm ideas for what to do with the newly acquired property. That committee — made up of community members, local business owners, and town officials, including two selectmen — met Tuesday night for the first time to outline what the town owns and doesn’t own, and what each member would like to see happen with the plaza.

“[The plaza] is probably the primest real estate in Madawaska,” Madawaska Town Manager Gary Picard said during Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s an opportunity here that if we want to do something bold and fresh in town, we can do it.”

Among the potential uses for the plaza that meeting participants threw around were: a parking garage, a senior retirement facility, a new grocery store, a microbrewery, an old fashioned general store, an indoor space for vendors to rent booths and sell crafts or other items, and a splash park.

The splash park was a concept initially pitched when Suzie Paradis was still the economic development director in town. But since she left to become town manager in Fort Kent, Picard and current Economic Development Director Keith Cyr have added it to their list of priorities, along with green space, streetscape improvements, an outside sound system, and street and business lighting, as part of the town’s Downtown Revitalization plan.

However, Cyr said he believes the committee members can all agree that getting more retail business into the buildings is the long term goal.

“We are all aware of the challenge we have in front of us,” Cyr said. “The buildings acquired by the town are in rough shape and would need considerable investment to bring them back to being useful for retail.”

Cyr said the town will start meeting with potential retailers and developers to “pitch” the Madawaska area as a go-to destination. Picard and Cyr said they would point out that, including the population across the border, there are 107,000 people within a 65 mile radius of town. They said statistics also show that in 2017, 377,000 passenger vehicles, totalling over 555,000 people, crossed the border into Madawaska, making the local port of entry the 16th highest on the northern U.S.-Canada border for bridge activity, and the second highest in the state.

In the meantime, Cyr said, the town also will work to make the farmer’s market a destination point for Madawaska and the surrounding communities.

“By working to grow this area to be a community hub, and spark further economic development in this area — our hope is that future investors or retailers will begin to see this plaza’s potential,” Cyr said.

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