Residents and staff from the city are lobbying for an official Caribou committee that aims to redevelop the riverfront area, a report said.
The Caribou Riverfront Renaissance Committee, which is being proposed, aims to create new parks and trails; bring small businesses and restaurants to this area. They also want to be given official committee status in order to pursue long-term solutions, including a master plan.
The district was once the heart of the city’s potato production. However, it has been transformed into an industrial area near the Aroostook river. It is now anchored by a railroad that hasn’t been running for almost a decade.
“It’s all about how can we bring economic development to our community. That’s what I am all about. We can focus our attention on what is really an asset and an under-used asset and take it as an asset,” Code Enforcement Officer and committee member Ken Murchison said in the report.
The group was formed as an ad hoc commission at the end of September. It has since begun discussions with the DOT and hopes to acquire railroad-adjacent land. The group has also surveyed the community to get ideas for how to develop the area, the report stated.
Murchison stated that the survey has approximately 90 respondents so far. This group administers the questionnaire on Thursdays at Sweden Street and other events in the town. You can also get it at the library, the report said.
Murchison stated that “Development” is widely supported. “There seems to have been a lot of interest in a cafe, small restaurant, or brewpub situation. It’s very popular to build affordable housing and pedestrian trails.”
Murchison, code enforcement officer, said that he has heard of private interest in developing the land. Some people are now asking about what it takes to open restaurants and other businesses along the riverfront.
Earlier this summer, Troy Haney got approval from the city council to start a seasonal campground on Limestone Street on property that was once an auto salvage yard. He was motivated by the need to improve the riverfront.
According to the report, if councilors are able to draft an ordinance, then they will need to present it and hold a public meeting on it before it can be enacted. This will require at least two or three bi-weekly meetings. Murchison hopes that the committee will be established by mid-September if all goes according to plan.
The group currently has nine members: Murchison; Events and Marketing Director Christina Kane Gibson; Parks and Recreation superintendent Gary Marquis; Daniel Bagley, vice-chair and chair of the planning board; and Christine Soloman. Jay Kamm, Jan Murchison, and Frank McElwain are also in the group, the report said.
The Caribou Riverfront Renaissance Committee, which is being proposed, would consist of five members of the public who will serve three-year terms and five ex-officio people: a city councilor and three city staff members, the report added.