City Aiming to Enhance Visual Appeal

Now under the ownership of the City of Calais, 35 North Street – which houses Chen Family Garden – is being considered for exterior and structural improvements. The project is one of several to be addressed by the Economic Development Committee this year. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

The first Economic Development Committee meeting of the year for the City of Calais touched on several topics – including how the city could make use of various tactics to increase its visual appeal and attract more visitors to its events and businesses.

One of the easiest methods of improving the appearance of the city – at least once the snow melts – is landscaping, and the committee has several ideas as to what could be improved. Landscaping in and around the traffic circle coming into town from Baring and in the newly-donated triangle of land where North and South Street meet were both discussed, as well as picking up trash along public ways. The committee is looking to either hire new part-time workers for the work or to incorporate it into the existing tasks of workers hired to care for the hanging flower baskets.  

Downtown, the plan to build a new sidewalk on the Main Street side of Triangle Park is moving forward. The new sidewalk will be made from hot-top with granite curbing. Once built, there will be lampposts added to match those present on the rest of the street. Per Public Works Director, the project will begin in May and take not more than a few weeks.

Nearby, Councilor Artie Mingo is hoping to create a brick walkway around the granite statue in Triangle Park, complemented by benches and decorative shrubbery. A preliminary estimate on the project came in at $2,900, though other bids will be sought as the planning for the project proceeds.

The committee is aiming to acquire easily-erectable banners by the golf course and the traffic circle that would alert visitors to events that are happening in the community – from the International Festival to Scarecrow Fest to the currently-in-the-works ATV festival.

On the river itself, the project to expand the Calais Marina is continuing, according to City Manager Mike Ellis. The funds to do so have been delayed somewhat, however, with the federal BIG grant, comprising more than 50 percent of the project cost and not cycling again until 2020. Additional funds will come from the state SHIP grant, which Ellis notes has a shorter cycle. From working with the state, Ellis said “it’s not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’” in terms of whether or not Calais would qualify for the improvements.

Lastly, the city has acquired or is about to acquire three properties: the former Texaco in Milltown, the former Townhouse restaurant downtown, and 35 North Street, which currently houses Chen Family Garden. Regarding the Texaco, the city hasn’t yet decided what to do with the property; a brownfield survey will be requested to assess its environmental status. The Townhouse, which will belong to the city within 30 days, may be put out to bid, though it will require a replacement of its sewer system according to Public Works Director Seelye. Councilor Mike Sherrard expressed that any incoming owner for the property will need a “solid business plan.”


At 35 North Street, the city is continuing to receive rent from Chen Family Garden and is planning to continue the arrangement. However, the building is in significant disrepair, with Councilor Sherrard noting that “the windows are rotting right out of it.” Per Mayor Billy Howard, the siding at least should be repaired, a step that will not only improve the appearance of the building but which will potentially increase business. No firm plans were created.