WESTBROOK – When Nancy Curran was growing up in the 1940s, the rural neighborhood in Westbrook’s northeast corner was its own world.

“Prides Corner was Prides Corner and Westbrook was Westbrook,” she said.

In 1950, a newspaper article described it as “left over from Windham, an afterthought of Portland, a second cousin to Falmouth and a poor relative to Westbrook,” according to a history booklet published by the local church men’s club.

But, as a misfit among the surrounding cities and towns, Prides Corner developed a strong sense of community and an identity of its own — which some say the neighborhood has lost and the city hopes to bring back.

Prides Corner is one of nine neighborhoods in southern Maine that have been selected to get help from consultants to plan for growth, through a $1.6 million federal grant awarded to the Greater Portland Council of Governments.

Today, there’s little to distinguish Prides Corner — the intersection of Bridgton Road with Brook and Pride streets — from other four-way stops along Route 302.

The concept drawn up by the consultants would slow traffic with a center median and sidewalks and convert the intersection into a village with stores that would meet the daily needs of residents in the neighborhood.

That plan was presented Wednesday at a community meeting at Prides Corner Congregational Church, where more than 100 people packed into the fellowship hall.

City officials and the consultants wanted residents to tell them about the changes they want to see in their neighborhood. The change they said they want most is less traffic on Route 302.

City Planner Molly Just explained how creating a network of streets off the main drag could decongest traffic on Route 302. And with a village, a place that looks different from the rest of the main road to the Lakes Region, drivers will slow down, she said.

The section of Route 302 could become better known as Bridgton Road, she said, and “maybe you could walk across it.”

By concentrating on development of new businesses and housing in that area, the rest of the neighborhood could retain its rural character, said Carol Morris, a consultant who facilitated the community meeting.

Some of the residents at the meeting said that’s why they moved to Prides Corner, and said losing it is what they fear most.

Mary Beth Driskell said that when she moved to the neighborhood in the 1990s, she could walk out of her condominium and buy vegetables at a nearby farm, which is now up for sale. Neighbors worry about what will take its place.

Driskell said she knows that growth is inevitable. She just hopes it can match the character of the neighborhood.

“A country feel,” she said. “That’s what I’m looking for.”

First settled in the early 1700s, the neighborhood was named for members of the Pride family, some of the earliest and most prominent residents of the area, according to the Westbrook Historical Society.

Over time, the name was taken on by a church, a fire station and an elementary school, which closed last year as part of Westbrook’s school consolidation.

Now, the most recognizable marker of the neighborhood is the sign at the Prides Corner Drive-In, a movie theater that opened in the 1950s in what’s considered the northern edge of the neighborhood.

Curran said the community isn’t cohesive as it used to be. People identify more with the streets they live on than the area as a whole, partially because it’s too dangerous to get around by walking.

“You wave to your neighbors from across the street,” she said.

But people who have been around long enough know where to go when Tracey Chambers tells customers her hair salon, Voila, is in Prides Corner.

“It’s still a landmark,” she said.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at [email protected]


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