Civic Center gives hope for Belfast’s economy

It is obvious that the economic boom that Belfast experienced through the first half of the past decade has now faded. We are faced with a very slow economy, forcing businesses to close and many folks to be without work.

For many years there have been discussions and recommendations that an events/civic center be built in Belfast. The feasibility study that was commissioned by the Belfast City Council declared that an events/civic center would have a positive impact on the economy of the area. We, as citizens, paid for that study; it seems to me important that we follow its guidelines.

Some residents of the Belfast area are opposed to the idea of an events/civic center, because they do not see it as a means of new employment. However, during its construction phase and once it is operational, the center itself will generate jobs for folks of many levels of experience and expertise. In fact, the main reason that there are so many supporters of the project is the revitalization it will bring to Belfast and the surrounding area. As more and more visitors come to Belfast to attend the various events at the civic center, more shops will open and the ones we have now will be busier. Restaurants and motels will flourish, all bringing new jobs to the area.

One fact from the study stands out in my mind. For every $1 that a municipality spends on a center such as the one proposed, $7 is returned to the town in revenue from those visiting. That’s only one fact, but it’s enough to make me want to see an events center built here in Belfast.

We now have a large group of very interested, excited and knowledgeable people who are willing to volunteer their time to see this dream of over 20 years become a reality. They are such strong supporters of the project because they know it will revitalize the economy of the area. Belfast is a great little city. If we find a way to share it with others it can continue to be so.

I urge each and every resident of the area to encourage the City Council to take whatever steps are necessary to move this project forward; to support the process in any way he/she can; and to enthusiastically shout its merits to all who ask about it.

Marjorie Byers

Belfast

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Move over, Camden

Thanks in great part to a group of culturally conscious community residents, interest in a Belfast civic center has increased steadily. “None too soon,” you might say; the idea, after all, has taken some 30 years to come to fruition, but no suitable space had been available until the Mathews Bros. building on Spring Street was vacated.

Though I live in Swanville, I obviously would reap the benefits of a large cultural center so close to home. Unfortunately, no one has yet figured out how to assess taxes on non-residents who have equal access to such enterprises, but I would gladly help pay for a venture that would benefit us all.

Residents seem to be excited about its prospects, so why aren‘t we moving forward? Progress seems to be mired in fear over the price of such a building. Though the committee is working hard to nail down a solid figure to present to the public, at this time we don’t know how much such an undertaking would cost in tax dollars. We do know, however, that there are numerous concrete reasons why we should proceed.

For decades Belfast has lost potential revenues to Camden. Why? Camden offers a relatively large, downtown concert hall where everything from ballet and global consortiums to riotous comedy and variety shows can be presented; though not so convenient, it also has the outstanding Strom Auditorium. Who benefits from these culture venues other than those attending? Not just the presenters, but restaurants, hotels, shops, gas stations and the Camden image in general.

Were we to possess a viable civic center, Belfast would also be a formidable destination, and draw more tourists. A renovated Mathews Bros. space would provide seating for up to 500, and could even attract folks looking to hold a private party or wedding. I attended an event this past September where numerous out-of-town guests spent three full days and nights here. The bride and groom gambled on the weather because no inviting indoor space had been available. Fortunately, they won.

These are facts: 1) art centers increase downtown revitalization; 2) tourists seeking art and entertainment spend approximately 36 percent more money where they visit than other tourists; 3) developing an events facility would provide new jobs, both for the remodeling phase and operation; 4) culture venues generate $7 in revenue for each tax dollar invested in development and operating expenses. In brief, we would bring in much more than we would spend.

Belfast is a thriving, culturally-aware community; it’s time to invest in our future, and quit making excuses why we can’t afford a civic center. It’s time to start competing with our Midcoast neighbors for art and entertainment venues that will delight us all, and to start bringing in much-needed revenues and recognition that will help create a better quality of life for us now and for the future. By restructuring the old Mathews Bros. building, we can be both “mean” and “green”!

Lila Nation

Swanville

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Delighted about civic center

As a Belfast resident, I am delighted to learn that a civic center is being contemplated to accommodate conferences, banquets and performances. At my age I am not fond of traveling, although I do so every chance I get to take part in worthwhile events. If these events could be held in downtown Belfast within walking distance of my house, I say hallelujah.

Kate Duncan

Belfast

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Let’s not muddle the issues

Deborah Paradis’ letter (“No to events center, yes to Walmart,” Feb. 10 edition of TRJ) muddles the issues facing the citizens of Waldo County. Surely jobs are needed and certainly attracting manufacturing would be a wonderful thing for Belfast and surrounding towns.

We do not need to choose, however. There are no offers pending regarding the Matthews Brothers building in Belfast. There is no potential manufacturer who will be turned away if the Civic Center plan goes forward. There are other empty manufacturing facilities available in Belfast should an interested buyer come along.

Nothing about the proposed Civic Center conflicts with the goal of creating jobs and stimulating the local economy. In fact, those who support the center do so because they are convinced that bringing more activity to town will be beneficial to the shops, restaurants and lodging establishments in the area, and might even make Belfast a more attractive location for a manufacturer.

Let’s say yes to the Events Center, yes to manufacturing and yes to more commercial enterprise of many kinds.

Dereka Smith

Northport

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Thank you, Waldo County ER

A special thanks to Mary Ann Dyer in the emergency room at Waldo County General Hospital, and also to Doctors Anderson, Whitten and Sedwick during my daughter’s stay. Thanks for the great care. It was very much appreciated.

Michelle Blood

Searsmont