'Toast to Main Street' puts Westbrook back in spotlight

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WESTBROOK — Westbrook’s downtown revitalization efforts will be celebrated Thursday with an event that will bring together national, state and local speakers.

A Toast to Main Street will take place Nov. 9 from 5-8 p.m. at Presumpscot Place, located at 22 Foster Street. Tickets are $30-35 and can be purchased online through the Maine Development Foundation.

The event is being co-hosted by the Maine Development Foundation and the Downtown Westbrook Coalition. DWC Executive Director Abigail Cioffi said the event is a great opportunity for Westbrook to showcase its growth and development.

“It really puts us on the national stage,” she said. “And on the state level there’s a lot of excitement about Westbrook right now and this continues that.”

A Toast to Main Street will touch on Main streets in Maine as a whole and discussion of Westbrook will be woven throughout, Cioffi said. She said some of the event will be dedicated solely to Westbrook. 

The keynote speaker will be the chairman of the board of the National Main Street Center, Ed McMahon. According to a press release from the Maine Development Foundation, McMahon is “a national expert on sense of place, historic preservation and economic development.”

Cioffi said the Downtown Westbrook Coalition is excited Westbrook was chosen as the location of the event. The event will be the second gathering of state and national development leaders in Westbrook in less than a month.

“It’s huge, especially coming on the tail of the GrowSmart conference,” Cioffi said, referring to the annual GrowSmart Maine Summit, which took place Oct. 18 in Westbrook. “It’s a really big deal.”

Having the two events hosted in Westbrook speaks to the city’s strong push for revitalization, Cioffi said. 

“It helps to show that Westbrook is part of something bigger, which is important for a community that may not see itself as as good as other communities that have been doing this longer,” she said.

The Downtown Westbrook Coalition has been working on an application for the city to become Maine’s 11th nationally accredited Main Street Community. Westbrook is currently an affiliate member of the National Main Street Center and is looking to become an accredited community of Main Street America. Being nationally accredited would allow Westbrook to receive grants and have a more successful downtown revitalization. 

Cioffi said the coalition has been working hard to improve Westbrook’s downtown.

“We’ve had so much growth in the past year and we’ve done so much work,” she said.

While the event will focus on Main streets across the state, Cioffi said it will be a great opportunity for Westbrook residents to learn more about the city’s growth. The event will more lecture-based than discussion-based, but people are welcome to ask questions after.

“We hope people will be inspired to continue the conversation,” she said.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. with an hourlong social where attendees can sample food from local restaurants. Included with each ticket is also a complimentary beer from Mast Landing Brewing Company or Yes Brewing. There will also be an informal social after the event.

The program will begin at 6 p.m. and in addition to McMahon, Yellow Light Breen, the president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation, will also speak. Representatives from Convenient MD and Waterstone Retail, which both have development underway in Westbrook, will speak as well.

The Maine Downtown Center will present statewide awards and make a presentation about Westbrook. Cioffi said announcements will also be made regarding development in Westbrook and Gorham.

Cioffi said she hopes the event will lead to great things in Westbrook and propel the Downtown Westbrook Coalition forward in its work.

“We’ve become much more visible in the past year with people knowing who we are and what we’re working on,” she said. “From here we catapult into being a little more focused and grounded on what we want to accomplish.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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