BANGOR, Maine — The architect and project manager behind a proposed arena complex in Bangor have altered their plans to move the convention center closer to Main Street and save nearly $6 million in the process.
Heeding concerns brought up by residents over the past few weeks, councilors approached the development team to see whether any additional savings could be found. Architect Don Dethlefs and representatives from Cianbro Corp. responded by reconfiguring their initial design.
The latest plan still calls for a 5800-seat arena (expandable to 8,050), but now the convention center would be located on the opposite side of the arena, bringing the project closer to Main Street, directly across from Hollywood Slots.
“This team has done a great job listening to our concerns and working with us to address them,” City Council Chairwoman Susan Hawes said Thursday after the latest plans were unveiled for councilors.
Added Councilor Cary Weston, who was part of a small city contingent that approached the architect and contractor: “Cianbro and [Dethlefs] have done a lot of extra work in a short amount of time. They listened to what we needed in terms of reducing costs, and we didn’t really lose anything.”
The project’s cost, which last month was estimated at between $71 million and $80 million, now has shrunk to $65 million. The initial design included a connected meeting building and sky bridges over Main Street and Dutton Street, but those pieces are off the table at this point, according to councilors.
Based on projections from the main funding source, the city’s proceeds from Hollywood Slots, Bangor could afford a $54 million project using that source alone. The city so far has collected about $10 million from the racino and expects to collect between $2.5 million and $3 million annually.
Other funding sources, including appropriating money from Bangor’s downtown tax increment financing district funds, also have emerged. Additionally, a friends group of local business and civic leaders has formed to solicit private sector donations once the project is green-lighted.
Councilors have scheduled a special meeting Monday, Dec. 20, to vote on the project’s next step — contracting with the architect to begin what is known as design development. That will commit the city to spending an additional $800,000.
Meanwhile, an opposition group has launched a petition drive in an attempt to give residents a vote on whether Bangor ultimately should move forward with constructing a new arena. Bob Cimbollek, the petitioner, has until Jan. 14 to gather 2,236 signatures to force a referendum.
Councilors have not ruled out scheduling their own citywide referendum and are expected to discuss that option before the Dec. 20 meeting, Hawes said.
At their regular meeting Monday, Dec. 27, Hawes said councilors also plan to vote on whether to submit a request for proposals from private firms that could manage a new arena and convention center once it is built.
Last month, Cianbro set an aggressive timeline and encouraged the city to act by January to ensure a May 2011 groundbreaking and prevent costs from going up. However, according to Weston, the updated design shortens the total construction schedule and buys the council a little more time.
“The council has listened to the public,” he said. “As a council, we think this is the best opportunity to improve the economic climate and promote development in Bangor.”