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This project was conducted in collaboration with Auburn City Hall’s Urban Development Office to better understand the perceptions of quality of life in the Union Street neighborhood (USN) in Auburn, Maine. This neighborhood, along with Downtown and New Auburn, have been deemed “blighted” by the City of Auburn. We administered surveys whose results will be considered in the City of Auburn’s 5 Year Consolidated Plan. Part of this plan includes federal funding from a Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant that Auburn will apply for this spring. This study informs Auburn’s urban planning process by considering the local community’s voices in making improvements to the USN.

Historically, blighted neighborhoods in urban areas were catalysts for urban renewal. While some neighborhoods expanded and flourished economically, blighted neighborhoods were neglected from this development process, leaving them in social and physical disrepair (Breger 1967, 376). In the past, city governments ignored the voices of low-income community members living in blighted areas, displacing these residents without care. City governments have realized, however, that citizen participation in the urban planning process is imperative to making successful change. The results from this project voice the needs and concerns from the USN residents, and thus are an important component of Auburn’s urban planning process.

Our results illustrate that community members in the USN wish to address three main issues: housing, sidewalks, and public transportation. First, because the neighborhood is considered “blighted”, there are many vacant lots and abandoned homes that people would like to see fixed. Second, residents reported that the sidewalks were poorly maintained, making it difficult to maneuver around the city, especially in the winter. Third, residents expressed the need for a more accessible and affordable public bus system in order to move about the city more easily. Finally, aside from tangible improvements, results indicate that even though residents want to see improvements to the city, not everyone is willing to donate their time to make these changes a reality.

The outcomes from our project suggest that the City of Auburn should direct their attention to low-income housing, better sidewalks, and improving the city bus system. By addressing the three primary needs of the USN, the City of Auburn can allocate their federal funding to help improve this community. We conclude our report by recommending certain projects that will further benefit the City of Auburn and ENVR 417 students.