All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Neighbor by Neighbor

Neighbor by Neighbor is a locally produced film about a grassroots effort to save a Lewiston neighborhood.
In the summer of 2004, the Mayor of Lewiston, Maine announced a plan to develop a four-lane boulevard across downtown’s low-income neighborhood. This project was called “The Heritage Initiative.” Contrary to its name, this plan was going to eliminate the downtown’s heritage by displacing 850 people from their homes as well as destroy playgrounds, vegetable gardens, and historic buildings. Moving residents out of the city and improving traffic flow was at the heart of this proposal… It was 1960’s Urban Renewal all over again.

As tragic as the circumstances were, the threat of a road destroying the neighborhood required residents to rise to the challenge of becoming community organizers. Instead of allowing their neighborhood to be paved over, the residents of downtown organized themselves into a group called “The Visible Community.” They received support from non-residents alike – social service leaders, college students, and other people who recognized the Heritage Initiative as an unfair way of “cleaning up” the downtown at the expense of the people who lived there.

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