BREWER, Maine — Much has been said of Bangor’s transformative growth during the past decade. But what about its neighbor across the river?
Brewer’s expansion and development of its waterfront and business corridors has, on a smaller scale, mirrored that of its larger counterpart and is ongoing.
City officials are ironing out Brewer’s new comprehensive plan, a document aimed at guiding city leadership through the decade and shaping a picture of what Brewer might look like in 2025.
The plan goes in depth about the future of the Brewer Waterfront. A decade ago, Brewer crafted a master plan for its waterfront Penobscot Landing, including an entertainment district and public market, facilities for boaters, an outdoor amphitheater and recreational trails, among other things.
Much like plans Bangor had for its waterfront, the concept hasn’t seen much action in terms of business development but has seen major changes in terms of converting it into a space for public enjoyment and recreation. Last year, the city opened a lighted, paved waterfront trail along the Penobscot River. That trail expanded in 2014.
Brewer’s proposed comprehensive plan seeks to continue some of that waterfront development, with “niche” retail, commercial, entertainment and office space in residential areas and across Main Street in the area from the Chamberlain Bridge to Harris Street. In the area of the walking trail, the city would like to see “less dense use” for the purposes of recreation, entertainment and residential spaces along a narrow band of waterfront properties.
Also shifting is the city’s idea of what sort of housing developments it might like to see in the future. The committee that drafted the plan found Brewer, with a population of about 9,500, should have a more diverse housing stock than the single-family homes and small apartment buildings that make up the bulk of its housing structure.
The plan proposes the city change its ordinances to allow for condominium developments in parts of the community, with shifts to larger, multi-family developments with access to large green spaces. The plan also mentions the potential for gated communities, “golf course communities” and efficiency apartments to increase the variety of living offerings in Brewer.
Many of the proposed shifts will cost money. With state and federal funding drying up in recent years, officials acknowledge they’ll need to find ways to grow the city’s tax base in order to fund major improvements.
“We are willing to pay for a high quality school system, better roads, a more attractive community, recreational facilities, pedestrian pathways and other city services, but only in the framework of a relatively stable tax rate that grows only slowly and predictably, and depends on an expanding, sustainable and diverse tax base,” the document states.
The comprehensive plan was up for a public hearing last week. After planning board approval during a December meeting, it will go on to the state for review. The state has 45 days after receiving the document to recommend adjustments or give it the OK. After that, Brewer City Council will decide whether to adopt it.
To see the city’s full proposed plan, which touches on areas ranging from public safety and transportation to stormwater infrastructure and land use, visit brewermaine.gov/planning.
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff