Ernie Martin, the Maine DOT’s man in Wiscasset, gave me a reason to head north on Saturday.
Last week was a milestone for Martin, the Department of Transportation Project Manager who’s overseeing Wiscasset’s $5 million downtown makeover. He’s just done the same thing 20 miles north in Hallowell. The place looks great.
Walking down State Street there you see DOT has completed projects similar to Wiscasset’s. Installing lots of granite curbing, laying down asphalt and then more asphalt, widening sidewalks, preserving brick, and working with shops and services to keep business going on.
Hallowell, like Wiscassett, also lost on-street, angled parking. To get that done, DOT made State Street one lane for weeks. It hasn’t been easy for Hallowell.
Has it been worth it?
Martin would say “Yes!”. At a meeting Friday of the Friends of Wiscasset Village at Sarah’s, Martin said Hallowell is seeing new life downtown. A few years ago antique stores with crowded, dirty show windows seemed to set the tone for downtown. Coincidentally (?), MDOT’s Project office is in a retail space that used to be an antique shop. The sign over the door says it well.
There’s new life on State Street. Where there had been vacancies downtown, Martin said, they’re beginning to fill in. Slates opened a bakery some time ago, and has now added outdoor seating. There’s a pet grooming business getting ready to open its doors along with the Traverse Coffee Co., alongside a juice bar and, across the street, a colorful florist shop. There are several hair salons and, of course, Dom’s old style barber shop.
The same thing will happen in Wiscasset, hopefully. Businesses will come. There are at least three retail spots open on Route 1 between the Post Office and Sarah’s.