2021 GrowSmart Summit and Maine Smart Growth Awards

Speakers at the 2021 GrowSmart Summit

The 2021 GrowSmart Maine Summit featured keynote speakers Keynote Speakers Dr. Devashree Saha and Kate Dufour.


GrowSmart Maine’s 2021 Summit, held on November 4, 2021*, featured the theme of Turning Climate Action into Economic Opportunity: Smart Growth Guidance for Maine Communities.

The Summit featured Dr. Devashree Saha of the World Resouces Institute with a national perspective, and Kate Dufour of the Maine Municipal Association with a local perspective. Their excellent presentations and discussion highlighted the potential, and the challenges, of capitalizing on the economic opportunities that come with the threats of climate change. A recent blog about the Summit, by the Natural Resources Council of Maine’s Josh Caldwell, shares some of the insights and inspiration from this year’s speakers.   

Building on the success of last year’s pandemic Summit, the hybrid model allowed for participation in person or remotely, this year with 150 people in attendance. Also continuing last year’s format, the Keynote presentations and discussion with the audience was followed by a full hour of regional discussions to facilitate a deeper understanding of the summit theme and to consider how to put it into action across Maine. And like last year, there was a follow up forum the following week, to continue the conversation across the state. To hear the full conversation, the Summit can be viewed on GrowSmart Maine’s YouTube channel, here.

While GrowSmart Maine staff and board continue to process the key points raised in the Summit and forum discussions, two areas of focus for action have been identified:

●      How can we communicate about climate change to motivate more Mainers to action?

●      How can towns and cities incorporate climate action into their planning process?

It is worth noting that these two issues are really opposite sides of the same coin, and GrowSmart Maine will share summary points in the coming weeks as the organization identifies its own best next steps for action.


Smart growth is a common-sense concept that helps communities welcome – and manage – growth where it makes sense for the long term while still maintaining their historic feel and natural beauty.

GrowSmart Maine’s fourth annual Smart Growth Awards not only recognizes the diverse activities that contribute to smart growth but serve as real-life illustrations of the benefits it can bring. At Summit 2021, GrowSmart released a video highlighting this year’s four Maine Smart Growth Award winners.  The winners are:


The Center for an Ecology-Based Economy (CEBE) is a non-profit organization based in Norway, Maine. CEBE’s mission is to engage the community in addressing the climate emergency. They organize, educate, take direct action, and implement practical ecological solutions for a just transition to a thriving, regenerative economy. CEBE’s community activities are focused on the areas of Transportation, Energy, Food, and Shelter.

OUTSTANDING PLAN AWARD: The City of Lewiston, Community Concepts, and Choice Neighborhood Partners, for their Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan “Growing our Tree Streets”

In recent years, the City of Lewiston has seen significant investment in its downtown and mill districts marking an exciting turning point in the City’s economic development.  However, just a few blocks away is Lewiston’s Tree Streets neighborhood, one of the poorest and most distressed neighborhoods in the state. Responding to this challenge with what is arguably the largest, most comprehensive, and most ambitious neighborhood redevelopment plan in our state’s history and, more importantly, one with social and economic justice at its core, the City of Lewiston and the non-profit Community Concepts facilitated a robust community process with multiple community partners in the development of a comprehensive Neighborhood Transformation Plan named,  “Growing our Tree Streets”.

Growing our Tree Streets has successfully secured $30 million dollars in grant funding from the Choice Neighborhood Program which has already leveraged an additional $10 million in private investment.

Once secondary private investments are factored in, the plan has sparked a total of over $100 million in anticipated public & private investment in the Tree Streets neighborhood.  The Growing our Tree Streets plan demonstrates the enormous power of public-private partnerships to tackle community challenges and better the lives of residents.


Evan Richert is possibly the most accomplished and well known planner in Maine’s history, who has been referred to by his peers as the Father of Planning in Maine and his work has had far-reaching and transformative effects on our State. Since the early 1970s, Evan Richert has worked across Maine as a planning director and consultant, including eight years as Director of the State Planning Office. It was during that peak, while serving as the State Director, that Evan was instrumental in the creation of Maine’s landmark Growth Management Act. And Evan authored the early municipal manuals that set the tone for land-use planning profession in Maine including: 

  • Comprehensive Planning:  A Manual for Maine Communities
  • The Sensible Transportation Handbook

His far-reaching work has also supported the expansion of research and development.  Evan’s support of R & D in Maine led toward the creation of the Maine Technology Institute and the Gulf of Maine Ocean Observing System. He co-founded UpStart Maine, a coalition of entrepreneur support programs in the Bangor Region and still serves today on the Board that oversees the UpStart Center for Entrepreneurship in Orono. 

In the area of conservation, Evan served as the State’s lead negotiator for the decommissioning of the Edwards Dam on the Kennebec River in Augusta, a project that provided a nationally-recognized model for river restoration.  He also served as Planner on a 4-person advisory team instrumental in shaping the Moosehead Lake Concept Plan…. which established a 360,000-acre conservation easement in the region, one of the largest such easements in the United States. He also developed the Maine Vernal Pool Special Area Management Plan, a method of mitigating vernal pool impacts while enabling compact development within a municipality’s designated growth area.  

He was a pioneer in bringing the principles of smart growth to Maine, including the Great American Neighborhood concept, formal recognition of “service center communities” and by helping to broker the initial funding for the Maine Downtown Center at the Maine Development Foundation.

In recent years, Evan has assisted developers integrating smart growth principles into development projects.

The breadth and depth of his work is absolutely remarkable, but the thing that his colleagues all seem to value the most about him is his unwavering kindness, consideration, and humility. 

OUTSTANDING PROJECT:  Portland Housing Authority’s Solterra Apartments

Completed in 2020, Solterra Apartments is a 55-unit,  six-story, mixed-use family apartment building with ground-floor commercial space located at the corner of Boyd and Lancaster Streets. Solterra provides critically needed mixed-income housing, serving residents from a broad range of economic circumstances while achieving many other positive social, environmental and economic community outcomes.

In terms of Smart Growth design, Solterra is sited along 4 major bus routes, close to schools, services, grocery stores, and jobs earning it a 93 on WalkScore.com, making it ideal for car-free households.  

The name Solterra was derived from the Latin root for ‘sun’ (sol) and ‘earth’ (terra), paying homage to the solar panels on the roof as well as the food security and gardening focus of the community that was created here. Portland Housing sees Solterra not as a finish line but as the starting point to a larger plan to serve Portland's ongoing housing needs. 

*The Summit was held in person in Biddeford, along with virtual attendance, and satellite locations hosted by regional planning and economic organizations in northern, downeast, central, and western Maine. GrowSmart Maine offers special thanks to regional partners as they continue to explore the concept of regional satellite locations to facilitate increased and more diverse participation in our annual event, while still allowing for in-person interactions. These include Sunrise County Economic Council, Northern Maine Development Commission, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, and Eastern Maine Development Corporation.

AICP Certification Maintenance was approved for Summit 21.

Written by:

Nancy Smith, Executive Director, GrowSmart Maine

Nancy E. Smith has lived and worked in Maine since 1981 and joined GrowSmart Maine as executive director in April 2010. She served four terms in the Maine State House of Representatives, representing Monmouth, Litchfield and Wales, while working on her family’s diversified livestock farm in Monmouth. Nancy worked as a forester for over twenty years for a large industrial landowner in northern Maine and for a consulting firm serving small woodlot owners in central Maine.