Kennebunk @ @Work Newsletter
Falling for Fall

Volume 1 Issue 2
October 2017

     With the bright colored leaves, brisk air and warmer wardrobes, many consider Fall their favorite season. It brings visitors to Kennebunk and the area to enjoy the views and our hospitality. Meanwhile, the Economic Development Committee (EDC) continues its monthly meetings to work on ways to enhance responsible growth and effective communication among the town’s interest groups. This issue of Kennebunk@Work features brief articles about historic developments, on-going projects and statistical data that provides some insight to the make-up of our citizens.

     The EDC meets the first Thursday of each month at 5 PM in the Town Hall. We take a summer break in July. Meetings are open to the public and we welcome your participation. Let us know your concerns and suggestions to help make Kennebunk a great place to live, raise family and do business.                                   

          Steve Hrehovcik, Editor

Meet James Black, Interim Economic Development Director

     Early this summer, the Town of Kennebunk’s first Director of Economic Development, Mat Eddy moved on to pursue other consulting opportunities closer to home. For the last 5 years Mat worked for Kennebunk in a part-time consultant capacity funded through a combination of Tax Increment Funding and town operating budget. In the interim, Jim Black has come on board to continue the transition with the top issues that Mat was working with the EDC and town on including Amtrak, Comprehensive Plan and various business assistance grants.

     Jim has lived, worked and raised his family in the Kennebunk’s for nearly three decades. Jim and his wife Holly have been active volunteers in town government. Holly served as the chair of the Historic Preservation Commission and Jim served on the EDC from 2002-2006. During his tenure as chair of the EDC, the committee structured its first Tax Increment Financing project. (See related TIF article below.)

     His professional career spans senior leadership positions in Fortune 1000 manufacturing firms, and executive positions in Fortune 500 technology companies. He spent a third of his career as an entrepreneur helping small companies discover practical solutions to complex business problems.

     In addition to his business activities, Jim has served as an adjunct professor at local universities and a volunteer firefighter.

     Jim’s extensive high level technical and management experience, along with his knowledge of the area make him an easy choice as we transition economic development efforts for the town.  If you have an economic development issue or opportunity, please contact Jim or the Committee.

          Contributed by Bob Georgitis, EDC Chairman

A Confectionary Kennebunk Landmark

By: Tom Murphy
The Wedding Cake House, Kennebunk, Maine
Photo credit: Brick Store Museum

     The Wedding Cake House in Kennebunk is without a challenge the most photographed house in northern New England. In 1903, a local hotel owner produced a series of post cards of overly romantic local scenes, perhaps hoping that the Kennebunks could enter the competition as the new Saratoga or Newport. Soon the sentimental tale was spun of a newly married sea captain rushing from the ceremony to catch the changing tide. At sea, it was said, he patiently carved the gingerbread trim so his wife could finally have her wedding cake. Myth soon became accepted tradition.


     The truth behind this spun tradition is hardly less romantic. The house’s owner, George Bourne, built scores of massive wooden sailing ships in his shipyard located behind the then unadorned Federal brick home. He had always purchased the popular architectural magazines of the day and after he closed the shipyard in 1852, he became a captive of the Gothic Revival style. During a four-year period, working only with hand tools, he carved and assembled the intricate buttresses, battlements and spires that grace this confectionary landmark more than 160 years later. 

          Tom Murphy is a resident of the Kennebunk Landing shipyard neighborhood, a retired Kennebunk High School History Teacher, and a former long-time Maine State Representative. He is the author of The Wedding Cake House: The World of George W. Bourne, which may soon have its 3rd reprinting.

Trolley Cars Changed Economic Patterns In Kennebunk and Throughout Maine

Trolley track through Main Street, circa 1910
Looking north on Main Street in Kennebunk at the intersection of Storer and Water Streets. The photographer is probably standing on the bridge over the Mousam River. You can clearly see the Atlantic Shore Railway waiting station.
Photo taken circa 1910. 

     In his publication, Toonervilles of Maine: The Pine Tree State, O.R. Cummings states in 1915 there were 518.63 miles of street railways in Maine. Railways carried 57,422,739 passengers with an operating revenue of $3,066,924 - $73, 299,483 in 2017 dollars. These trolley systems provided hundreds of good paying jobs, transported thousands of workers and brought tens of thousands of tourists to Kennebunk and other Maine communities. They also allowed rural farms access to more markets, provided freight and U. S. Postal services.

     In southern York County, the Atlantic Shore Railway was the second largest railway system in Maine. From 1907 through 1917, it had more than 90 miles of track connecting Kittery, South Berwick and up the coast to Biddeford, with spurs from Kennebunk to Sanford/Springvale and Cape Porpoise. During 1915, this railway carried 4,814,907 passengers and had gross revenues of $353,095. In 2017 dollars, this equates to $8,438,970. In 1908, trolleys carried 5,881,581 passengers. This was the last year it showed a profit.

          Contributed by Philip W. Morse, Thornton Academy Residential Life Staff and Project Manager of Narcissus Renovation, Seashore Trolley Museum. You can read more about the restoration of this vintage interurban car on Morse’s blog.  

Tax Increment Financing:
An Important Budgeting Tool for Kennebunk 

Pythian Block Building prior to Tax Increment Financing renovations
Pythian Block Building prior to Tax Increment Financing renovations

     In 2005, Kennebunk established two of three Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts, and one sub-district, as a tool to publicly finance infrastructure and community improvement projects. Our TIF districts are centered in Downtown, Lower Village and West Kennebunk. A sub-district of the West Kennebunk TIF was created in 2010 to capture value increases from the construction of the new CMP power sub-station and transmission line upgrade.

     TIFs are a public financing method used in 47 states to help local governments revitalize and improve their communities. Our TIFs have been used to rebuild all three village centers, add sewer access to Route One South, rebuild roads and sidewalks, expand the drainage system under Downtown, and purchase fire and public works apparatus.
     Another use of TIF funds is to create tax credit incentives for developers to undertake projects in our community. To date, only one tax incentive project has been approved which involved the renovation of the Pythian Block building on Main Street. The result was the restoration of a virtually unusable building valued at $156,000 to its present valuation of more than $2 million.

Beckett Building after renovations
Beckett Building after renovations

     It is important to note that the creation of TIFs does not reduce property tax revenue available to the General Fund. Moreover, TIF district projects and expenses do not increase property taxes; to the contrary, they help leverage our tax dollars. For every $1.00 diverted from the General Fund to a TIF district special revenue fund, we receive roughly $.50 from the State of Maine and York County. In essence, for every $1.00 we invest in the TIF districts, we receive $1.50 of value for use in those districts and areas directly connected to them.
     TIF districts are overseen by the town’s Economic Development Committee who advise the Board of Selectmen on the use of TIF funds for annual operating expenditures, capital asset investments and debt service payments.  Any bonding obligation undertaken through the TIF is approved by the Board and must be voted on by residents.

          Contributed by L. Blake Baldwin, Member of the Board of Selectman and
Owner of Video Creations, 45 Portland Road, Kennebunk, 207-985-5105

Town of Kennebunk: Certified Business Friendly

A warm welcome to new business activities…

     Kennebunk received the designation of a “Certified Business Friendly Community” from Maine’s Department of Economic and Community Development in 2013. The Town continues to welcome new businesses and help existing businesses provide valued services and products to our residents and visitors.

     We are pleased to welcome the following businesses that have opened or will open in Kennebunk in 2017 since our last Newsletter in July:
Carrol Family Farm – 861 Alewive Road, Owners: Christopher & Daisey Carrol (Farm)
Exochain Corp. – 5 Bragdon Lane, Suite 4, Owner: Robert E. Stewart, Sr. (Internet Development & Services)
Kennebunk Frozen Custard Treats, Inc. – 2 Morning Walk Lane, Owner: Rebecca Gagnon (Ice Cream Shop)
          List compiled by Town Clerk’s Office 

Lower Village Works On Master Plan

Kennebunk Lower Village as seen from the Kennebunk River Basin
Kennebunk Lower Village as seen from the Kennebunk River Basin.
Photo credit: Kennebunk, Kennebunkport Arundel Chamber of Commerce

     The Lower Village Master Plan Committee has been working with Harriman Associates, an engineering and planning firm, since June to gather feedback from the public in order to develop a master plan for Lower Village. The committee has held two public workshops, gone door to door to talk to residents and business owners and also hosted three “strolls” through Lower Village in an effort to learn what people want to see changed or retained in the village.

     On September 20th, Harriman Associates presented three alternative plans pertaining to parking, sidewalks, bike lanes, and streetscape improvements.
     The public has been asked to provide feedback regarding what they like or do not like about each plan in order to help formulate the final master plan. It is worth noting that Harriman Associates will assist the Town to obtain funding for this project and will structure the plan in stages so that the Town will be able to implement it gradually. 

     The Lower Village Master Plan committee members are: Rick Taranto, Miriam Whitehouse, Betsy Smith, Nina Spencer, Laura Dolce and Chris Osterrieder.
     More information about this project can be found on the town website as well as on the Lower Village Master Plan Facebook page at:
          Contributed by Miriam Whitehouse

An age comparative between Kennebunk, Maine and the country

     Getting older is a natural progression and a part of life. Here in Maine, and more so Kennebunk, we enjoy a higher than national average density of 60 and 70+ people in our communities. Unlike many Maine towns, Kennebunk is fortunate to have the benefit of a senior center, known today as the Center. It offers a warm welcoming environment that is open five days a week, and continues to serve as a place for seniors to meet, have fun and volunteer. 

     Whether it’s an educational or yoga class, friends meeting over coffee or free FISH medical rides, the Center is here to serve. Countless medical studies have linked isolated seniors to health issues such as early onset dementia, depression and increased falls. The Center gives seniors a reason to get out of their homes offering engaging programs that keep our seniors healthy, happy, independent and connected to our community.  Membership is open to those age 50 and above, but "friends of the Center" can be any age! Stop by and see what we're all about!

Contributed by Pat Schwebler, Executive Director, 
The Center, 175 Port Road Kennebunk, ME 04043, 207-967-8514

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