Working on the Ten Coolest Places in Southern Maine

What does it take to make someplace vibrant and successful? What kind of qualities attract both people and businesses to locate there? Can we figure out how to transform potential into prosperity?

Ten Southern Maine communities have volunteered to help us find out.

Each of these communities have designated a small, yet special, portion of their town to be a “learning laboratory,” a place where the Sustain Southern Maine team can learn what it might take to grow a specific location into a vibrant, prosperous center of activity.

We purposely included in this list a combination of urban, suburban and rural locations, giving us a wide range of opportunities to learn what could work.

Here’s where they are, north to south:

  • New Gloucester: Upper Village
  • Gray: Gray Village
  • Standish: Steep Falls Village
  • Westbrook: Prides Corner on Rte. 302
  • Portland: India Street neighborhood
  • South Portland: Mill Creek Shopping Center neighborhood
  • Scarborough: Rte. 1 by Dunstan Crossing
  • Kennebunk: West Kennebunk Village
  • Wells: Transportation Center/Municipal Center
  • Kittery: Foreside


What’s our plan for learning about these locations? Well, that depends on what we hear from the neighbors and property owners, who will be a hands-on part of this educational process.

But here’s what we do know. We know that market and housing studies indicate that smaller, more affordable and energy efficient homes located within walking distance of goods and services are increasingly in demand by young people – and by downsizing seniors. And because most of the housing built in Maine in the past several decades has consisted of large single-family homes on even larger lots, there are not a lot of small, affordable, walkable options around.

Hence, an opportunity.

Of course, this is all an evolutionary process, where any change will take place over the long term. And just by looking at the list of locations above, it’s clear that they will all present very different challenges and very different answers. But we expect to learn some interesting lessons on new ways to grow here in Maine, lessons that can be adopted by other communities as well, should they so decide.

So remember the names above. Ten or fifteen years from now, they may be appearing in a magazine near you, billed as the coolest new places to live and work in Maine.

by Carol Morris, Sustain Southern Maine Team Member 

November 2012