It is not exactly news that the recent global pandemic took a toll on our collective sense of community and belonging.

Sociologists are busy constructing studies to calculate what, if any, impacts upon our social fabric can be attributed to the pandemic, but while we wait for the graphs and figures, I’ll just wander out on this limb over here and say I feel it. I feel a lack of community.

Obviously, this problem predates COVID-19. We, as a whole, were already aware of some loose threads in the social fabric well before lockdown. After all, “Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital,” a book by Robert D. Putnam about the worrisome degradation of healthy and sustaining community connections, came out in 2000, and Jane Jacobs was writing her revolutionary work on city planning in relationship to social connections in the early 1960s.

So, yeah, not a new problem. I would still argue, though, the pandemic made it worse.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at

However, as with all things in life, there is balance, right? A counterpoint. It seems to me that the counterpoint to this moment lies in creative new spaces. I was delighted to see, on the front page of the Oct. 6 edition of this very paper, the announcement of the approval of the sale of the old fire station in Brunswick for a mixed-use project.

Did you see this, too? So exciting. Built back in 1919, the building has those fantastic lines and “correct” proportions that make it look like something straight out of a Little Golden book. It is charming. I never fail to walk by it without having my own daydreams about what I would do with it if it were mine.


But old fire stations are notoriously tricky to repurpose. Often built or “improved” in a time when asbestos was a safety conscious fire prevention tool, they were then put into service for a dangerous trade that inherently involves soot and hazardous chemicals – both in terms of what is being burned in the fire and what is being used to fight it. My eldest is now a full-time firefighter (proud Mama moment) and he buys special shampoo and body wash to help “detoxify” after a call-out. Yikes.

A building full of gear, engines, hoses, all exposed to the same nasty stuff can be a puzzle to repurpose. Even in my wildest daydreams, I knew it was beyond me.

However, a quick scan of the webpage of Developers Collaborative, the firm behind the Brunswick project,  reveals a number of other similarly challenging projects they have completed – and their staff page gives you the credentials of the people making it happen. Not too shabby. Most surprising of all, they are local. The firm itself is based in Portland and most of the staff actually live in Brunswick or surrounding communities, so there is a different sort of investment in play.

The plan for the revitalized space includes the new home for Moderation Brewing downstairs, a community kitchen in the basement, five apartments upstairs and green space as well. Located where it is, it’s not hard to imagine this becoming an active, joyful gathering spot for the entire community. Especially if (hint, hint) Moderation adds its own root or ginger beer to the menu. Though locally made Green Bee is pretty darned great as well. Maybe a food truck or two? OK, that’s just me talking. But really.

I know there are some naysayers out there. I get it. I will even admit I often have a healthy dose of skepticism about projects such as this one, but it seems to me that what we are in need of right now is some forward thinking and creative reimagining of our community spaces, and there is an experience-based plan in place to do it.

I think there is reasonable cause for hope here. Bring on the gatherings.

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