2016-09-01 / Community News

HOB becomes accredited for ‘America’ program

Heart of Biddeford has been designated as an accredited Main Street America program for meeting performance standards set by the National Main Street Center.

“We are thrilled to recognize this year’s recipients for their exemplary commitment to preservation-based economic development and community revitalization through the Main Street approach,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Street Center. “Nationally accredited Main Street America communities work to strengthen the economic, social, and cultural fabric of communities across the country.”

The organization’s performance is evaluated annually by the Maine Downtown Center. Evaluation criteria determines the communities that are building comprehensive and sustainable revitalization efforts and includes standards such as fostering strong publicprivate partnerships, securing an operating budget, tracking programmatic progress and actively preserving historic buildings.

“Heart of Biddeford’s revitalizations efforts build on the work of many before us, and happen in partnership with the municipality, the business community, hundreds of committed citizens, and our partnering organizations,” said Delilah Poupore, executive director of the organization. “The Sept. 17 River Jam Festival is an example of a collaboration across all of those sectors, as well as with our partners in Saco. It’s cooperative community development that leads to better economic development for our region.”

“Three years ago, when HOB hosted the Main Street Challenge, we had tremendous support from the city of Biddeford as well as the local business community, which led to attracting high quality businesses in the downtown like Elements: Books Coffee Beer, Desert Moon Leather, and Biscuits & Company,” Poupore said.

Main Street Challenge winners Dahlia’s Delights and Tote Road closed. Forage Beer Works never opened.

“When Julian Schlaver and Roxi Suger (owners of Biddeford-based angelrox clothing line and Suger, its flagship store), invented the Biddeford Ball, they demonstrate the power of pulling the community together to draw 400 people downtown and raise $22,000 for food programs. When six downtown business owners hosted Wonderful Women Wednesday, they showcased the growing retail options downtown while giving back to a cause. When Engine coordinated ArtWalk and it happened when City Theater had a performance, the sidewalks were full with people falling back in love with the downtown. When mill owners like Doug Sanford hosted community events in the mill for free, and successfully drew new businesses and residents, it helped make people take notice of all that’s happening here. When the city invested and continues to invest in the River Walk, streetscape improvements, facade improvement programs, and marketing, the entire community benefits. And this month, when Biddeford Savings hosts the first ‘Burger Crawl,’ they’ll showcase five different restaurants and raise funds for food programs.”

“Heart of Biddeford doesn’t have to take the lead on every community development project,” Poupore added. “It’s great to see the innovative approaches that so many are taking, and it’s easier to pull these things off with a Main Street program’s ability to gather volunteers and funds and get the word out.”

Heart of Biddeford’s next program will be the Great Space Showcase, scheduled for Monday, Sept. 26. The goal is to work with property owners to showcase available spaces downtown to attract businesses interested in expanding to Biddeford.

“Biddeford still has an affordable lease rate in buildings that are known for their beautiful bones,” Poupore said. “We think all of our current businesses will benefit as we are able to fill the downtown storefronts with a great cluster of retail and service businesses.”

Additionally, Heart of Biddeford is seeking popup stores for November and December to draw more people to check out the retail opportunities in Biddeford.

“There’s no question that this is still a tough economy. And, downtown revitalization in a former mill town often feels like two steps forward and one step back, especially considering we’re basically in competition with online and big box retailers,” Poupore said. “But, in the last few years, Biddeford has welcomed restaurants like Palace Diner and Custom Deluxe, which have received national recognition, an internationally successful clothing designer, angelrox, new retail stores with women’s clothing and fine arts like Trillium, popular breweries and a distillery, and an arts nonprofit, Engine, that hosts a gallery, PechaKuchas, and a 3-D printing lab. There’s even a new ice cream store, Sweetcream, that makes the ice cream right on Main Street. These new businesses join longtime businesses like Reilly’s Bakery (over 100 years), La Corseterie (over 50 years), New Morning Natural Foods (over 35 years) and many more that are innovating to keep up with current shopping and dining trends.”

“There’s a movement building here,” Poupore said. “And Heart of Biddeford is proud to partner with so many to foster the revitalization of this beautiful city.”

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