ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city will seek a $500,000 state downtown revitalization grant to fund improvements mainly for parking and pedestrian safety.
Councilors authorized the grant application earlier this week, and the city’s planning department is developing information to include in the application, which is due in mid-February, according to City Planner Michelle Gagnon.
The grant will focus on improvements to the City Hall parking lots, according to Gagnon. The upper parking lot is in need of a lot of work, she said. Half of the lot is not paved or striped and there is a steep bank between the upper lot and the main, lower parking lot that is eroding.
“The idea is to create a structural retaining wall to a height of about eight feet,” Gagnon said. “Then we would have a grassed slope the rest of the way.”
If there are enough funds available, she said, they will install a stairway between the two lots.
The lower lot needs complete resurfacing and the project will include repairs to the retaining wall between the lot and Store Street. Frost has gotten into the existing granite block wall, causing some movement and erosion of the mortar between the blocks. The fix could be tricky, Gagnon said, because of the row of flowering crab trees along the edge of the lot near the retaining wall.
“We’re going to ask the engineers to see what they can do to fix it and still leave those trees intact,” she said.
The project also would repair the existing stairways between the lot and Store Street.
The grant application will include a component for facade improvements for downtown buildings. Gagnon said the city has been talking with representatives from The Grand Auditorium on Main Street and Maine Shellfish on Water Street, but she added that other businesses would be encouraged to apply for funds if the city is awarded the grant.
Part of the grant also will target improvements to sidewalks along Water Street to make it easier and safer for pedestrians to walk in that area. Gagnon said the project would look at areas beyond the city parking lot off Water Street toward the harbor park, and particularly around the Maine Shellfish building. The city already is working with the seafood business to ensure any improvements don’t disrupt operations at the plant.
“We have to be concerned that they can continue to do business, and at the same time make improvements to help people walk to the harbor,” she said.
One major component of the grant application will be the demolition of the existing wastewater treatment plant. The city is working on constructing a new treatment plant on Bayside Road.
“Once the new plant is on line, we want to demolish that building,” she said.
The treatment plant is on city-owned property that is linked along the river to the city’s Harbor Park and the marina. The grant funds, in addition to another harbor grant, will fund improvements to the harbor area, Gagnon said.
Maine Department of Transportation sight-line restrictions will not allow the city to increase traffic in and out of that area, she said, but the city will look for ways to use that area to improve the harbor.
“We’ll be rethinking how we use the harbor area,” she said. “We’ll look at ways to reorganize Harbor Park to maximize its use.”
The grant application is due in mid-February and requires at least a 20-25 percent local match. Gagnon said the city already has funds to meet the local match requirement and may allocate additional funds for the project. She said she is compiling cost estimates to complete the grant application.
The grant will be awarded in March, in time for work on many of the projects to begin this summer.