Investing in Your Town: Free Concerts to a Public Park
In 2012, the city decided to focus on Community Heart & Soul® in partnership with Gardiner Main Street and the Gardiner Board of Trade. The project aimed to help update the city’s comprehensive plan, a process that would unfold over time. Results, however, began to happen right away. There was renewed interest in local government and volunteering. Eight people ran for three seats on the city council. Interest in serving on committees grew. More people attended council meetings, and the tenor of meetings changed as discourse was more civil.
As Gardiner Heart & Soul concluded, a “Duct Tape Council” was created to ensure that the Action Plan came to fruition. Immediate changes included waterfront concerts, volunteers planting flowers, Heart & Soulmate awards celebrating resident involvement in the community.
Changes that evolved over a longer timeframe included economic development. Gardiner began to reinvent itself as a food hub for regional agriculture with meat processing facilities and a food co-op retail store to market locally grown food.
Here are some of the enduring results of Heart & Soul:
– Five Community Development Block Grants totaling $1.9 million sparked investment and created 55 jobs.
– Gardiner Growth Initiative—invested in 5 retail establishments with incentives including forgivable loans, free rent, and grants.