The practice of “community building” is a complex and intricate mission. For communities that are populated by people of significantly different life experiences, this task may be especially challenging. Intermingling between subcommunities, generations, people of varying income levels, etc may not occur and neighbors may not have the chance to meet and build relationships with each other. This is evidently a huge loss - forging meaningful relationships with the people we share bits of our lives with is an incredibly valuable and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, in the context of the busyness of our daily lives, we are often inhibited from pursuing community building in its many forms. One potential avenue to escaping this cycle of isolation from one’s community is to create a context where community building is not only possible, but easy, simple, and the default. But how can this context be created? As explored by sociologists, this sort of effortless community building can be facilitated by the creation of a Third Space - a location that is distinct from both home and work environments and which is characterized by open communication, mutual respect and trust, and a safe space for self-expression, relationship building, and skill development. These spaces have the potential to create genuine and lasting relationships between community members by providing an equalizing and accessible location to socialize. The city of Lewiston, Maine is a vibrant, diverse, and complex place in the heart of south-central Maine. Previously a mill town, the city is now home to around 36,500 people, nearly 11,000 of whom live in the densely populated Tree Street neighborhood in downtown Lewiston (John T. Gorman Foundation). The Tree Street neighborhood is populated by a wide array of people of all ages, nationalities, races, ethnicities, income levels, etc. Though there are many community based organizations that prioritize community building, the missing piece of the puzzle is a physical location where different groups within the community could participate in classes, activities, art shows, performances, etc together in a neutral, accessible, and equalizing space. Our community partner, Klara Tammany, envisioned such a space existing in the Trinity Church building. Together, our team worked with Klara to create goals. Our project was focused on three main pillars of research: 1) exploring the function of community spaces as Third Spaces, 2) investigating the financial and management structure of organizations similarly situated to their community as Trinity Commons would be, and 3) producing a comprehensive overview of the potential expenses and revenue of the space. Our ultimate goal was to generate an expense report of the space and determine the financial viability of the project.
Kovacs, Alex; Middleton, Kate; and Worsh-Farnum, Sophie, "A Third Space in Lewiston: Exploring the Feasibility of Trinity Commons" (2022). Community Engaged Research Reports. 91.