Haines helps revive downtown Waterville
As the executive director of Waterville Main Street, Shannon Haines is involved in many aspects of improving downtown.
During a typical work week, Shannon Haines could find herself giving tours of downtown Waterville to visiting members of Congress and meeting with business owners to help them tackle the challenges of operating in town. What job, you might ask, could have such a wide variety of responsibilities?
For the past eight years, Haines has served as the executive director of Waterville Main Street. The organization’s main mission, according to Haines, is “to revitalize downtown Waterville as a commercial and cultural hub.”
A native of Smithfield, Maine, located only 15 minutes from Waterville, Haines worked for Maine’s State Planning Office before joining Waterville Main Street’s local movement. “I was sick of working at the state level because I felt like I wasn’t having a direct impact on the community,” she said. “I was looking for a job that would allow me to do this when I saw a posting for Waterville Main Street in the newspaper.”
Haines made an impact on the town immediately after joining Waterville Main Street. She is responsible for helping set up Barrels Community Market, a nonprofit market that sells locally-produced food and crafts and is a favorite shopping destination for many students on the Hill. Establishing Barrels is Haines’s proudest accomplishment, as “no other main street community has started it’s own business,” she said. “Barrels is completely unique in that sense,” she said.
Haines is currently working on several different initiatives with the volunteers down at Waterville Main Street. “We have a million projects going all the time,” Haines said. “There really is no typical work day.”
At the moment, Haines is focusing on a streetscape project. Streetscape, according to Haines, “is anything that makes the downtown physical landscape more attractive.” So far, Waterville Main Street has worked on repairing the downtown sidewalks and installing new trashcans and bike racks. The final piece of this project is the addition of decorative banners along the streets of the city.
In addition, Haines and her volunteers are busy preparing for their biggest events of the year: the Winter Wonderland Gala and the Holiday Open House. The Winter Wonderland Gala will take place Nov. 9 and will be host auctions, live music, a visit from Santa and more. The Holiday Open House will be held Dec. 3 and will include caroling, horse drawn sleigh rides and cookie decorating. Proceeds from both these events will go toward Waterville Main Street.
More than anything, Waterville Main Street works to encourage locals (and students) to visit downtown Waterville. The organization works in conjunction with the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement to create events that will get students off the Hill, such as the dessert tasting Selah Tea is hosting on Dec. 3.
“I feel like there is so much to see and do in Waterville that isn’t always apparent,” Haines said. “We love seeing students downtown, [taking advantage of the] opportunity to leave campus and experience the community you’re living in for four years. Explore this community whenever possible.”