Madawaska to receive another $2.1 million for plaza redevelopment

3 months ago

MADAWASKA, Maine — Madawaska’s midtown plaza redevelopment project, which involves multiple upgrades to a plaza at 389 Main St., is getting a boost with an additional $2.1 million in federal funding. 

That funding is in addition to a $2 million federal grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) that the town received last year.

Madawaska Town Manager Gary Picard said at a selectmen meeting earlier this month that EDA grants can be difficult to obtain, so the town applied for a congressionally directed spending grant as a “Plan B.” And the town ultimately received approval for both grants.

The midtown plaza project includes totally revitalizing the area, upgrading the water and sewer infrastructure, rebuilding the parking lot and entrances from Main Street and Seventh Avenue, and creating ADA-compliant sidewalks. 

Part of the project also includes transforming a vacant Subway restaurant into a spot where local vendors and artisans can showcase their products. The existing farmer’s market spot will be upgraded to include public bathrooms, space for food trucks, and electric vehicle charging stations.

Madawaska’s midtown plaza is pictured here in 2023 as construction begins on a new Fish River Rural Health Facility. The town’s plaza projects are in line to receive $2 million in congressionally directed spending funds. (Chris Bouchard | St. John Valley Times)

Fish River Rural Health is also expanding into a new location in the plaza, and these upgrades will help with the facilities water, sewer, and fire protection. Since COVID-19 first hit, the health center has seen a 31% uptick in patients.

The EDA grant will provide $2,012,000 with a $503,000 local match from the town. Picard said last year that this money was taken out of a $3 million borrowing bond for downtown revitalization approved by voters in 2018. It will not directly impact local taxes.

“There’s upwards of $4 million of investment that’s going to be done, with very little local money,” he said. “But it’s going to take a while.”

Picard said the EDA has a rigorous grant process. To help move that process forward, the town entered into a $33,000 agreement with the Northern Maine Development Commission to meet the EDA’s requirements. This includes completing an environmental review record, soliciting competitive bids for engineering services, and conducting employee interviews for wage rate compliance.

Most of that $33,000 is for administrative services, while the remaining $3,000 is for travel. 

The town also approved $18,409 for survey work from Northern Maine Surveyors for the project. This money will come out of Madawaska’s downtown revitalization fund. 

Selectman Jason Boucher suggested coming up with a name for the project and area, like Caribou’s Skyway Plaza. Town officials had been referring to the project as KPL, or Kmart Parking Lot, because the spot was known as containing a Kmart retailer before it closed in 2018. Other board members showed support for the idea.

Looking ahead, Picard said the town hopes to break ground this year, but that EDA processes may delay groundbreaking until 2025.

“If not this year,” he said, “then certainly next year.”