BANGOR, Maine — Somewhat lost in the many changes and aesthetic improvements to the Bangor Waterfront is the fact that the city has a number of parcels of land for sale in that increasingly attractive area.
Economic and Community Development Director Rod McKay said that with waterfront buzz at an all-time high, now could be the time to aggressively seek developers for some of those parcels.
McKay asked members of the City Council’s business and economic development committee to approve signs for lots along Main Street, Railroad Street and Front Street indicating that they are for sale.
Committee chairman Cary Weston said there is no objection to marketing the waterfront as an area for economic development, and he was amazed the city had not done so sooner.
“If we try to sell a piece of land, we’ll fail,” he said. “If we sell it as an opportunity and sell Bangor as an improving community, that’s where we will succeed.”
There has been private interest expressed in the past about some of the lots, including one proposal for condominiums on Railroad Street, but nothing has come to fruition.
Councilor Geoff Gratwick said the city needs to recognize the long-term value of that land and make sure it gets top dollar before selling.
McKay and his staff will work on having attractive signs ready for the spring.
The city has been progressing steadily with its overhaul of the waterfront area, a once-prime location that fell on hard times in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 2001, the city has committed $11.5 million to those improvements, 70 percent of which has been covered by state and federal grant funds.
Last week, councilors directed Pam Shadley, the Massachusetts-based landscape architect who has crafted the waterfront master plan, to move forward with the next phase of improvements. That includes 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.
Proposed playgrounds and a multiuse amphitheater are on hold for now.
One of the reasons the city put the brakes on additional changes is it’s in the middle of negotiations with 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. Who might pay for that pavilion is still up for debate.
Independent of those plans, the city still has prime real estate available. A rectangular piece of land along Main Street could accommodate up to three separate development opportunities. Additional land is available in lots along Railroad Street as well as Front Street.
Councilors have agreed that they don’t want to sell to just any developer, but rather someone who fits in with what the city is trying to do in that part of town.
“We don’t need to micromanage,” Weston said. “Part of it is just letting the public know that it’s available. I think it’s OK to be obvious. If no one is investing, that means we’re not doing a good job selling.”
Between the American Folk Festival, the Waterfront Concert Series, KahBang festival and other events, tens of thousands of people are expected to visit the waterfront area this year. If just one of those people falls in love with the waterfront and sees a development opportunity, the city’s marketing efforts would be worth it, Weston said.