BIDDEFORD — In just two hours Monday, residents, city officials and businesspeople evaluated information collected over more than two years of brainstorming, boiling it down into priorities for improving the downtown.

The HeartWorks Downtown Master Plan Community Forum drew about 75 people who voted via keypad on the importance and feasibility of nearly 40 projects that could help revitalize Main and Alfred streets, as well as the mill district.

The items touched on seven key issues — public safety, engaging youth in the downtown, improving public infrastructure and downtown appearance, increasing downtown activity, creating a vibrant business environment and preserving natural resources.

“It takes a look at a whole range of things we should do to make downtown Biddeford a better place,” HeartWorks consultant Mark Eyerman said to participants Monday. “It’s a list of possible actions and what you think of them.

“How important is it to improve downtown? How feasible do you think it is to do it?”

The forum is a culmination of the Heart & Soul Master Planning project, which began in 2008. Funded by a $100,000 grant from the Orton Family Foundation, with an additional $15,000 from the city and the Heart of Biddeford organization, the project identified the community’s core values and a vision for downtown Biddeford in 10 to 15 years.

The list comprised ideas from more than 350 people who participated in 35 neighborhood meetings.

“It is really a bottom-up process,” using feedback from the community to create a master plan, said HeartWorks Advisory Council member David Flood.

The results of Monday’s forum will be compiled and reviewed next week by the HeartWorks Advisory Council, made up of city officials and representatives from the Heart of Biddeford.

The advisory council will use that information to create a draft of the downtown master plan, with the intention that it will be incorporated into the city’s comprehensive plan scheduled to be finished in 2012, said Tammy Ackerman, president of the Heart of Biddeford’s board of directors.

As questions were read by Eyerman, the consultant, regarding traffic studies, facade improvement programs, the Saco River as a recreation resource, creating a central park and marketing Biddeford as a place to start a business, people keyed in their votes and results were immediately seen by those participating.

When about 60 percent voted that it was important to improve lighting on Main Street and less than half thought whitewater kayaking was important, Ackerman said it was easy to see where people stood on specific issues.

“I wasn’t surprised by too much” regarding people’s responses, Ackerman said. “The big question … is that we can’t have everything important and everything feasible.”

Dan DuCharme, who owns DAD’s Cigar Parlor and Tobacco Shoppe on Alfred Street, has been an active participant on the advisory council.

“It was pretty cool, checking out the responses right away,” he said.

While he was able to get a general sense of what people felt was important, DuCharme said there are more factors to consider.

He said the analysis will not only look at the overall results, but take into consideration demographic information, such as age, gender and whether people own a business or commercial property.

Even with more work to do, DuCharme said he is optimistic and eager to present the draft of the downtown master plan April 11 during another community forum.

“It’s like we’re rounding third base and heading for home,” he said.

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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