2012-04-03 / Front Page

Bath garners national award

BY BETH BROGAN Times Record Staff

THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION cited the “vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown” and historic architecture along Front Street in Bath among reasons for designating the city as one of five 2012 Great American Main Streets.  (Donald Jamison / The Times Record)THE NATIONAL TRUST FOR HISTORIC PRESERVATION cited the “vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown” and historic architecture along Front Street in Bath among reasons for designating the city as one of five 2012 Great American Main Streets. (Donald Jamison / The Times Record)BATH — Noting its “vibrant, pedestrian friendly downtown,” historic architecture and “authentic maritime heritage,” the National Trust for Historic Preservation on Monday named the city of Bath as one of five 2012 Great American Main Streets.

Main Street Bath director Jennifer Geiger and board president Brian Hatch accepted the award, which recognizes excellence in revitalizing the country’s historic Main streets, at the National Main Street Conference in Baltimore.

“Bath is an excellent example of how, through partnerships and perseverance, a community can overcome seemingly overwhelming obstacles — in this case, the Route 1 viaduct, and competition from ‘big boxes’ — to create a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly downtown,” Doug Loescher, director of the National Trust Main Street Center, said in a release announcing the award. “Main Street Bath has given residents and tourists alike a host of reasons to exit the highway and explore its diverse businesses, wealth of historic architecture and authentic maritime heritage.”

Geiger said the committee was impressed with how Bath “has been able to use its identity as ‘The City of Ships’ and its unique personality to make it an attractive place for people to shop, so we were able to stay viable after the big boxes” moved into adjacent towns.

“This award is a tribute to the hard work of all the volunteers who devote so much of their time to making Bath a better place,” Bath City Manager Bill Giroux said Monday.

The award offers an opportunity for the volunteers, businesses and others who worked over the years “a way of looking back and realizing, ‘ Yeah, we’ve come a long way,’” Geiger said Monday from Baltimore.

In 2001, Bath was among four Maine communities named to the state’s Main Street Program.

Since then, Geiger said, “We’ve been able to make a real difference in the economic revitalization of the downtown ... we’ve managed to change the downtown district from a place that was sort of struggling to one that’s much healthier.”

Winners were selected based on criteria including a comprehensive, successful revitalization effort, broad-based community support for that effort, the economic impact of the revitalization program, active involvement by the public and private sectors, innovative solutions to significant problems and commitment to historic preservation.

Also honored this year were Culpeper, Va.; Jacksonville, Ill.; Valley Junction/ West Des Moines, Iowa; and Washington, Mo.

“Our state really does have such charming, very iconic ( Main streets),” Geiger said. “When you’re in downtown Damariscotta or Rockland or Bath, they have a personality, a flavor that’s very distinctive and, I think, very charming — Bath, of course, being the most charming.”

Geiger said Main Street Bath will hold an event later this spring to celebrate the award.

“We’re going to have a party,” she said.

bbrogan@timesrecord.com

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