City eyes parking garage upgrades

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 15, 2008, at 11:11 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The city of Bangor is prepared to invest more than $2 million for maintenance at two downtown parking areas in hopes of prolonging their useful lives for years to come.

Members of Bangor’s finance committee voted Monday to move forward with a proposal for repairs to the parking garage at Pickering Square and authorized city staff to solicit proposals to rebuild the parking deck on Columbia Street.

The two projects are sorely needed, according to City Engineer Jim Ring, and will be funded partly through downtown tax increment financing money.

“The structure is 20 years old now and it’s fair to say that there was not a lot of regular maintenance done early on,” Ring said of the Pickering Square garage. “If we don’t make an investment, we won’t get a useful life out of it.”

At 675 parking spaces, Pickering Square is the largest lot in Bangor. For the past several years, many employees of Eastern Maine Medical Center parked there and shuttled to work, but the hospital recently decided to build a new garage on-site.

Some committee members wondered whether that might diminish demand at Pickering Square.

“It will have an impact, certainly,” said Parke Clemons of Republic Parking, which manages the city’s public parking. “But the timing is pretty good with the new [Penobscot County] courthouse coming in.”

The maintenance to the Pickering Square garage will be done in three phases and will cost approximately $1 million over three years.

The parking deck at the corner of Columbia and Hammond streets is even older and in worse shape. Initially, the city had considered repairing the parking area but now believes replacing it altogether makes more sense.

“We can’t afford to wait another construction season,” Finance Director Debbie Cyr told council members, who agreed that the lot is in poor condition.

“Whatever is built there has to be better than what is there now, both structurally and aesthetically,” council chairman Gerry Palmer said.

Palmer and other councilors, however, wondered whether another area might be more appropriate for a parking area.

“If you’re talking about total demolition, is that the best location?” asked Councilor David Nealley. “Could there be a lower-cost option?”

Sally Bilancia, the city’s economic development director, said other options have been considered, but the Columbia Street garage is in high demand because of its location.

The finance committee agreed to discuss the matter further at its next meeting but did authorize the city to request proposals for the project, which is projected to cost about $1.3 million.

erussell@bangordailynews.net

990-8167

http://bangordailynews.com/2008/12/15/news/bangor/city-eyes-parking-garage-upgrades/ printed on October 23, 2014