By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
Rome was not built in a day, yet many living in Lewiston and Auburn expect that we should be flourishing on par with Boston or, at least, Portland.
They complain there is nothing to do. To avoid boredom, Portland or Boston is the place to be. They long for a past Lewiston that was alive and filled with nightlife on the weekends.
Many of the men and women I used to work with vividly remember the nightly activity on Lisbon Street—but not in the nostalgic manner that seems to permeate the memories of older citizens and their grandchildren longing for the return of bygone days.
No, my colleagues weren’t sitting in cars on lower Lisbon Street munching on snacks and drinking sodas. We were providing the entertainment for those in their cars, battling with intoxicated millworkers who needed a place to blow off steam after slaving all week in conditions that are unacceptable today.
Today this type of behavior would cause avoidance, not attraction, to our downtown area.
Many remember and yearn for the hustle and bustle of the upper end of Lisbon Street. The street was alive with people seeking the goods and services of the businesses located in this once-teeming retail district. But times changed. The malls came, causing a great many businesses to go the way of the dinosaur.
For those who complain we should be more like Portland, perhaps you might contemplate the following:
If you find that driving on Lisbon Street, Main Street, Sabattus Street, Court Street and Minot Avenue causes you to break into daily road rage—do you really think Portland is the place for you?
If you loathe using a parking garage—is Portland the place for you?
If you refuse to patronize a business that you can’t park directly in front of—is Portland for you?
If you don’t like being accosted by homeless people—is Portland for you?
If you’re not willing to pay $1,500 a month for an apartment—is Portland really for you?
In five years, if you suddenly wish you were back in Lewiston—leave. Portland is definitely for you.
The Twin Cities will not be like Portland; we’ll be better. We are now beginning the process of developing our riverfronts. This is going to take several years. It won’t happen overnight. Each square foot of land must be carefully and thoughtfully developed. Once the product is complete, the Twin Cities of Lewiston-Auburn will be the crown jewels of Maine.
Over the last few years, many residents have returned, investing their money and their sweat into making the Twin Cities come alive. At this point, their efforts are producing results. The areas encompassing Bates Street, Middle Street, Lisbon Street, Lincoln Street and Main Streets in Lewiston have once again become alive during both day and night. Main Street and Court Street in Auburn are also experiencing a rebirth.
Restaurants, pubs, retail businesses, the Franco-American Heritage Center and The Public Theatre draw people to our downtown area. We are also blessed to be the home of prestigious Bates College. They provide many services to our community, such as continual music concerts, dance performances, art exhibits and public lectures open free to the public.
This public entertainment helped us to be selected by AARP as one of the Top 10 places to retire. We also have a good many well-run bingo games throughout the Twin Cities.
L-A is a great place to live, work and be part of. In five years, those of you who leave now because of boredom will be running over each other to return home.
My time is growing short, so I’ll bring this week’s column to an end. I now have to find my little Orphan Annie decoder kit, lock myself in the bathroom and await my secret orders from Governor Paul LePage.