Penobscot Plaza owners seek to rebuild a Bangor landmark

Posted April 22, 2010, at 1:14 p.m.
Union Station on Washington Street dominated downtown after opening in 1907 until its demolition in 1961. The brick structure served Maine Central Railroad passengers, as well as the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. Its grand illuminated bell tower clock was visible for many miles. This BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB was taken in August 1960.
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Union Station on Washington Street dominated downtown after opening in 1907 until its demolition in 1961. The brick structure served Maine Central Railroad passengers, as well as the Bangor and Aroostook Railroad. Its grand illuminated bell tower clock was visible for many miles. This BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY SPIKE WEBB was taken in August 1960.

BANGOR, Maine – The owners of Penobscot Plaza have hired a local engineering firm to oversee a massive reconstruction project that would turn the strip of businesses into a mixed-use facility that evokes memories of Union Station, the railroad station that used to occupy the space.

Brian Ames of Ames A/E Architects & Engineers and stakeholders of Penobscot Plaza presented their ideas and plans for a $10.6 million, three-phased project to Bangor city councilors on Wednesday.

“The end result will be quite impressive,” Ames said this week. “Our approach is to redevelop the entire block, give it a new face and add a second story and bell tower that could bring back memories of the old railroad station.”

The developers would have to secure funding for the project and predicted it would be at least two years, possibly three, before it could begin and then be built in stages.

One possibility for funding might be the businesses in the plaza buying into the project in condominium fashion.

In the meantime, the developers would like the city to explore the possibility of stabilizing the bulkhead along the Penobscot riverfront that is in disrepair. They also would like the narrow strip of land between the railroad tracks, which lies just behind the present building, and the river to incorporate pedestrian amenities.

It would be helpful, as well, developers said, if the city could act as intermediary with the railroad in developing this project.

Members of the council’s business and economic development committee enthusiastically endorsed the dream of a new commercial-residential facility that architecturally would be reminiscent of the station demolished in the early 1960s. While the station was torn down through private enterprise, the site later became part of the city’s downtown urban renewal project.

Committee members also waxed nostalgic over the historic station at which one member’s father worked and through which parents of another passed on their honeymoon.

Union Station was torn down soon after rail carriers ended passenger train service to Bangor. A few years later, Penobscot Plaza was built in its place.

Under the new proposal, the strip of connected buildings along Washington Street overlooking the Penobscot River would be renamed Railroad Station Plaza.

The plan is to renovate the existing 58,000 square feet that now houses 10 businesses, including a hardware store, a bridal shop, a jeweler and an appliance retailer. The project eventually would add 26,000 square feet that would be marketed as residential space.

Ames said that while funding for the project is still up in the air another possible source might include tax increment financing assistance.

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