BANGOR, Maine — A giant crane loomed above the city’s downtown skyline, picking up giant pieces of concrete one at a time and setting them on trucks waiting to take the slabs to another location for demolition.
Employees from Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield officially began dismantling Bangor’s Columbia Street parking deck Tuesday, clearing the way for construction of a $1.6 million garage later this summer.
“We’re trying to do things a little at a time to disrupt the downtown as little as possible,” Bob Greene, the project manager, said from the site. “If we were to demolish everything here, there would be a great deal of dust and debris.”
Downtown workers and visitors will not be exempt from inconvenience, though. One lane of Hammond Street has been blocked off, and Columbia Street is closed from Hammond Street to Cross Street for the next several weeks.
The old parking lot was built in the late 1960s at the intersection of Columbia and Hammond streets on the site of the old City Hall.
Some maintenance has gone into the 80-space, two-level garage over the years, most recently in 2005. The city considered repairing the parking deck again in 2007 but decided that replacing it outright would be safer and more cost-effective in the long run.
The new parking facility will also feature 80 spaces on two levels. Half the spots will be permit-only, with the other half paid for hourly.
In addition to being more structurally sound, the new lot is expected to be an aesthetic upgrade as well, Bangor City Council Chairman Gerry Palmer said.
“This has been an eyesore since the day it was built,” Palmer said Tuesday. “It’s been functional, but has come to the end of its life.”
Greene said the new lot will feature a brick façade to fit the surrounding downtown buildings. It also will feature improved lighting.
Earlier this year, the city awarded what is known as a design-build contract to Cianbro that avoids the traditional bidding process and allows elements of the project to be done concurrently. In simple terms, it allows the project to move more quickly.
Greene said his crew will remove all of the old pieces of concrete in the next few weeks, then spend about a month on earth and utility work. The new precast concrete slabs, each weighing about 28,000 pounds, will be installed shortly after Labor Day. Greene said the completion date has been set for Nov. 2.
The project will be paid for through money generated by the city’s downtown Tax Increment Financing district. Businesses in the downtown pay into that fund each year with the understanding that the money will be used exclusively for improvements to the downtown.
Although the lot is now closed, city leaders are not concerned about a shortage of parking in the downtown. Fifty spaces recently were converted for public use behind the old Bangor police station on Court Street, and at least 80 spaces are typically vacant every day in the 675-space parking garage at Pickering Square.
Cianbro, one of Maine’s largest general contracting firms, is working with the Boston-based design firm Capobianco & Associates, CES Inc. of Brewer, S.W. Cole of Bangor and David Merritt, an Eddington architect.