WINDHAM – Benny’s Barber & Style Shop doesn’t take credit cards, but if you need some quick cash, there are three banks right across the street.

The problem is, you can’t really cross the street. It is the busiest section of Route 302 and the heart of the North Windham commercial corridor.

Barber shop owner Benita DiBiase recommends her customers drive to the ATMs.

“You take your life in your hands,” stylist Carolee Beaulieu said about trying to walk.

A new group that includes residents, property owners and business owners has been charged with addressing such problems by developing a plan to create a more cohesive downtown.

The 21st Century Downtown Advisory Committee, along with town staff and hired consultants, is holding a public meeting tonight to gather information about the challenges of traveling, shopping and doing business in North Windham.

The group’s focus is on Route 302 between the intersections with Route 35 and Whites Bridge Road.

The busy corridor is lined with chain restaurants, plazas anchored by big-box stores and local businesses scattered in between. There’s also a nearby elementary school, fire station and post office.

Town Planning Director Brooks More acknowledges that “it may not look like your traditional New England downtown,” but it is the center of Windham, he said.

It’s also the main route for anyone traveling west from Portland.

The road’s two roles — as a thoroughfare and commercial center — can be incompatible, More said.

Among the group’s goals are to find ways to make the area friendlier to bikers and pedestrians and, he said, “enhance the sense of place.”

Improving sidewalks and landscaping, creating more connections between plaza parking lots and reducing the number of entrances to businesses are some of the ideas so far. The group hopes to generate more at tonight’s meeting.

More said the meeting, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Manchester Elementary School, isn’t just for people who own businesses or property downtown, but for anyone who shops in or travels through the area.

“I would hope it’s something of concern for everyone in the community,” he said.

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at: 791-6364 or at

[email protected]