"Moxie Plaza" Summer Street Closure Attracts Visitors to Lisbon Downtown
Shortly after the Town of Lisbon’s Public Works Department erected detour signage on heavily traveled State Route 196 and installed cement traffic barriers to close a portion of State Route 125 (Main Street) to vehicle traffic on July 1st, the Town Parks and Recreation Department delivered new picnic tables and set up tents. Main Street restaurants installed educational signage to promote social distancing and deployed hand sanitizer stations throughout the 4,000 square feet closure area. A team of community volunteers cleaned and beautified the space. A local landscaping company placed flower planters and greenery among the tables and residents and regional visitors began socially-distant dining in the middle of Main Street.
This burst of activity in early July following previous months of business closures represented the implementation of a rapid, iterative, six-week design process in response to the Covid-19-related business restrictions. The Main Street design process centered on feedback loops from key stakeholders. From initial concept to final design to Town Council approval, Town staff gathered input from Main Street businesses during three rounds of input. The final closure design maintains ADA compliance and enables continued vehicle access and street parking on a portion of Main Street, while minimizing ongoing management requirements for Town staff.
The Town collaborated with three state agencies and AVCOG. Lisbon’s Main Street is also State Route 125 and Maine DOT approval was required for the closure. DOT staff provided a clear list of requirements and were extremely responsive with Town staff. AVCOG offered technical assistance to design the 73-sign traffic detour, while Maine DECD provided guidance for social distancing and public health considerations consistent with Covid-19 Prevention Checklists. A grant from the Maine DHHS provided funding for all equipment and most Town staff time to plan and implement the closure, and Healthy Androscoggin provided public health consulting.
“Moxie Plaza,” as the closure area is known, has attracted visitors to Main Street for three months. Community members and policy makers have expressed interest to recreate the unique outdoor pedestrian space each year going forward as an annual tradition. While community support for Moxie Plaza is strong, it is not unanimous. Opportunities exist to improve the design and programming. In late September, Lisbon will kick-off a series of public meetings with support from the Maine Downtown Center and Maine Community Foundation to explore options for pedestrian-focused village design as a long-term economic development strategy.
Brett is the Economic and Community Development Director for the Town of Lisbon, Maine.