Bangor Waterfront plan moves ahead

Posted Dec. 22, 2010, at 8:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine— Events such as the American Folk Festival, the KahBang Festival and last year’s successful Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series have given the city’s riverfront a prominence it hasn’t held since Bangor was the region’s logging capital.

But will there be enough money in the coming years to put the finishing touches on the city’s master plan, such as a small amphitheater, a playground and “splashground,” and make the waterfront a year-round destination?

City councilors on Wednesday directed waterfront park architect Pam Shadley to move forward with the next phase of improvements, which include erecting a building with public restrooms and extending the pedestrian walkway farther toward the Sea Dog Restaurant. Those two elements, totaling about $480,000, likely will be included in the 2011 budget but will be paid by downtown tax increment financing and state community development block grant funds.

The city will hold off on any further waterfront improvements at least until they hear from Live Nation and Waterfront Concerts LLC on whether they are interested in building a long-term concert venue in that area.

Last month, the city entered into a deal with the promoters to bring the concert series back for 2011 to the grassy area off Railroad Street, but both sides don’t see that location as permanent.

Bangor Parks and Recreation Director Tracy Willette said the city has provided the concert promoter with site information and he expects to hear back in the next several weeks about the possibility of a larger concert pavilion on the site.

“It’s clear to me that the events they want don’t fit into the size venue [proposed in the city’s master plan],” Councilor Rick Bronson said, referring to the concert promoter. “I suspect we’re going to need to make a policy decision on how we use that space.”

That means the proposed playgrounds and graded amphitheater are on hold for now.

Slowly and steadily over the last 10 years, the city has made incremental infrastructure improvements to the increasingly popular piece of land overlooking the Penobscot River.

Since 2001, the city has committed $11.5 million to those improvements, although 70 percent of that total has been covered by state and federal grant funds.

Most of the changes and improvements to the Bangor Waterfront — storm-water management, coal tar removal, etc. — largely have gone unnoticed by the public but were necessary to help pave the way for the next stages in the waterfront redevelopment. In recent years, the improvements have been more noticeable.

It would cost the city about $4 million to finish everything that’s left on the city’s waterfront master plan. Historically, the city has agreed to set aside $400,000 each year from its downtown TIF and is likely to continue that trend, but state and federal dollars are growing thin for this project.

Despite the city’s willingness to use downtown TIF funds to help fund a proposed arena complex, there still would be money left over for other projects, including waterfront improvements. However, if the downtown TIF is the only funding source, it would take 10 years to finish the waterfront park.

City councilors are crossing their fingers that Live Nation and Waterfront Concerts LLC might offer to pay for some improvements.

Many city leaders also are hopeful that as the waterfront continues to cement itself as a go-to destination, private development in the area will follow.

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