Creating a Downtown’s Plan Through Storytelling
Biddeford, ME (pop. 212,227), is an old mill city which needed to revitalize its downtown. With support from the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul initiative, it adopted an innovative, community-centered approach to create a Downtown Master Plan for revitalization which also complemented a Main Street program and other redevelopment efforts. Heart of Biddeford (HoB), a non-profit, coordinated these efforts using three methods: Storytelling, where multimedia stories were collected from the community by students and a HeartSpots program (where residents could call a phone number and record a story while downtown); Values Identification, in which residents identified five core community values through community forums and story screenings; Prioritization and Validation, neighborhood meetings which helped validate the values and identify the 7 priority issues for the Downtown Master Plan; and Actions and Implementation, a series of workshops which focused on each priority issue to define action step that could be included in the master plan.
This case study is drawn from the Orton Family Foundation’s Heart & Soul community planning program, an approach that engages citizens in land use planning as a pathway to vibrant, enduring communities.