Friday, July 22, 2011

Kennebunk Renovations Breathing New Life Into Downtown

By Chip Schrader
Staff Columnist
Over the last year, the look, feel, and names associated with downtown Kennebunk have changed. Completed sidewalk construction, an increase in summer foot traffic and a number of new local businesses are bringing the town some deserved attention.
The Saturday Farmers Market has been a success, where shoppers can find locally-made cheeses, breads and vegetables, along with beef from grass-fed livestock raised in a Maine farm. When the market began, it was held in a rear lot between the Sunoco station and the Kennebunk Inn where a Mobil station was located. Over the last two years, this Mobil was demolished, and the empty lot has been filled with wood chips to provide a pedestrian-friendly ambiance. The farmers market organizer, Caroline Segalla, hopes to build upon this success with a Tuesday evening sidewalk fair that operates from 5 to 8 p.m., often with a musical guest.
Eateries that stretch along Route 1 include breakfast places, a café, comfortable taverns, pizza and burger hangouts, and upscale restaurants, including the brand new 50 Local. The décor of 50 Local has an ultra modernistic feel with a bohemian edge, while the menu features local farms and ingredients that are derived from local sources listed on a chalkboard in the restaurant. Mussels, steaks and burgers are all on the menu, but expect a twist in the preparation and presentation.
As restaurants have begun to populate Main Street, there is also an art scene developing. It began with the opening of Mainely Mysteries this spring, and is continuing with the recent opening of The Hive, an art and performance art studio that overlooks the corner of the Kennebunk Inn.
Topping off the emergence of performance art in Kennebunk is an ongoing Shakespeare in the Park series that runs through August 13 in Lafayette Park. Last Sunday, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was performed, with the spacious park adding to the scenery of the classic play. Among the performances The Hive is scheduled to feature are the musician Patrick Fitzsimmons on July 29, and in August, “The Living Room Series,” which features local rock musicians “unplugged.” The rest of the time, the gallery of paintings, pottery, and sculpture should draw a buzz to the town.
As markets and hometown festivals roll in to enhance Kennebunk’s small town appeal, the influx of new local businesses hopes to draw and keep public interest in the quaint downtown. The new layout and sidewalks have increased the town’s curb appeal, while a circular gathering spot at the center of it all advertises to passersby that this is a social downtown. With the Five and Dime officially closed, and paint being scraped from attached storefronts, locals and visitors can only guess what is next for Kennebunk.
Photo caption: This brick patio is one of many renovations that have taken place – and are still evolving – in downtown Kennebunk. (Photo by Chip Schrader)