Maine Downtown Center Awards: Outstanding Public/Private Partnership, Outstanding Smart Growth
21st Century Infill For Historic Districts
A new infill building inserted at the core of Skowhegan’s commercial downtown and within the Historic District that replaces a derelict eyesore.
Public Private Partnership
Various public and private entities collaborated to overcome obstacles and achieve success, such as The Skowhegan Economic Development Corporation, The Town of Skowhegan, Department of Economic and Community Development’s CDBG Program awarded the grant. Maine Downtown Center. Citizens and Design Professionals.
Maine’s Pedestrian Connectivity Challenge
Many Maine downtowns have super blocks (long rows of contiguous buildings) that inhibit pedestrian connectivity, and consequently activity – essential to economic vitality. However the Renaissance Center provides a creative solution to this challenge – a new mid-block pass-through. This creative concept encourages pedestrian circulation by providing a complete, attractive, safe and direct route connecting new town Parking to Water Street to new crosswalks, curb extensions and pedestrian activated lights and to the Riverfront – rather than forcing pedestrians around the perimeter of the “super-block”. To our knowledge this is the first new Maine infill building inserted specifically to provide a new pedestrian mid-block pass-through. Many Maine towns faces similar challenges and this solution can set an inspirational example for others.
Big Program in Small Footprint
Downtown revitalization and smart growth goals depend on concentrated activity in the core. To accomplish these goals the Renaissance Center sought to pack many types of critically needed spaces onto a tiny 1,640 sq.ft footprint (x 2 floors = 3,280 sq.ft.). The spaces are envisioned to attract both residents and visitors alike. In particular the Retail space, Public Lobby and Bathrooms are intended to improve support for town-wide activities such as fairs and festivals, while the Community Meeting Room will be used for municipal and private functions.
Shared Access for Upper Floor Re-Development
Maine downtowns have vast areas of vacant and/or underutilized upper floors due to the challenge and expense of providing access and egress. Wise downtown revitalization and smart growth strategy takes advantage of these already existing opportunities, rather than spend resources developing new ones. Upper floor re-development is a worthy goal, yet is expensive, code challenging and space consuming. However the Renaissance Center offers a creative solution to this challenge – shared access. It is the first new Maine infill building inserted specifically to provide shared access to and egress from three buildings, two of which are adjacent historic properties. This bold “out of the box” solution sets an outstanding example how other Maine downtowns might solve upper floor re-development.
New Infill Compatible with Historic Context
Inserting new infill buildings within historic district requires a nuanced balance of differentiation and compatibility. The new building incorporates contemporary materials that are standard, durable, of quality and cost effective, such as brick veneer over steel framing, aluminum windows, aluminum, yet compatible with its historic neighbors.
The success of this ground breaking project was recognized by receiving Achievement Awards from the Maine Downtown Center for Outstanding Public/Private Partnership and Outstanding Smart Growth.