Originally published in The Weekly Packet, October 3, 2019
Blue Hill Main Street to continue under new sponsor
by Anne Berleant
Citing a lack of leadership and desire, ad hoc citizen group Blue Hill Main Street, formed nearly two years ago to explore joining the national Main Street America program, decided to continue with its projects but with Blue Hill Community Development as its sponsor.
A dozen members and one interested downtown resident weighed the pros and cons. A major consideration was that, without becoming an official Main Street Maine town with a 501(C)(3) designation, applying for grants would be difficult. Another was that “core groups formed around different projects” were enthusiastic but not towards the Main Street program, specifically, said meeting facilitator Jennifer Traub.
Issues Main Street members have focused on include downtown sidewalk connectivity, promotions, the recent Maritime Heritage Festival, and surveying local businesses.
“A lot of these projects need funding, and a way to qualify to receive funding,” Traub said. “BHCD is potentially the right place to house these projects because it’s already set up in place.”
Several BHCD board members are also in the Main Street group, and Heather Brackett noted, “It feels like there’s two groups going after the same thing when we could all work together.”
However, BHCD board member Scott Miller spoke to the nonprofit’s role in moving projects forward, as a fiscal sponsor and with organizational help. “The whole idea is take on the administrative burden,” he said.
While selectmen are the “final decision makers” on projects such as redesigning downtown sidewalks, “why not have this group push forward in getting some design ideas pushed through,” he suggested.
Since forming in January 2017, BHCD has sponsored ongoing projects Blue Hill Cares, Main Street Collaboration, South Street Connectivity Project, Native Gardens of Blue Hill, WORD Literary Festival, the Pioneer Prize and the Maritime Heritage Festival, along with completed projects Horton Emerson Park Beautification and Cruise Visitor Awareness.
“We’re always looking for projects,” Miller said. “We just want to make Blue Hill better.” BHCD will support and encourage projects, for example, affordable housing and a town performing arts center, “until they have enough steam to get going,” and requires only that a project team stay within its original mission and for the project to qualify under IRS 501(C)(3) criteria for charitable organizations.
“It’s the place to help nurture ideas, it’s not a place that initiates anything,” board member Tim Seeley said. “ The role of the board is to just facilitate.”
Visit Blue Hill Community Development, and subscribe to its email list, at link bhcd.org.