May 23, 2018
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Bangor likely to move stage for 2012 Waterfront Concerts series

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — City councilors believe they have come up with a solution to balance the varied benefits of the Waterfront Concerts with future economic development on the waterfront while still heeding the concerns of some West Side residents.

Pam Shadley, a Massachusetts-based landscape architect who has worked with the city for the past decade on the waterfront master plan, presented a handful of scenarios at a meeting Wednesday night.

Overwhelmingly, councilors favored a reconfiguration that would move the massive concert stage away from Railroad Street toward Hollywood Slots and rotate the structure to face the opposite direction.

The move would free up property along Main Street and Railroad Street that the city is trying to market for development and would preserve a more unobstructed view of the Penobscot River. It also would aim the stage and speakers toward downtown instead of toward the many residential streets that branch perpendicular from Main Street.

Cary Weston, who chairs the City Council’s business and economic development committee, said the city and the concert series’ promoter have been willing to explore many options so far in hopes of finding the best fit.

“We want to embrace the opportunity that this [concert] series presents for Bangor,” he said. “We’ve invested millions of dollars to attract private development down there, so we need to be mindful of that as well.”

City leaders are hopeful that development includes a variety of mixed-use retail, restaurants and an anchor tenant such as a hotel.

Improvements to Bangor’s once-dormant waterfront have taken place incrementally over the past decade. Much of the initial work that was done was largely invisible but mandated by state and federal environmental agencies. Over the past several years, the area has seen a rebirth thanks to events such as the concert series, the KahBang festival and the American Folk Festival.

The waterfront master plan once included construction of a small amphitheater and a playground or “splashground,” but those elements have been abandoned.

The popular Waterfront Concerts Series, launched in the spring of 2010, brings big-name music acts to perform outdoors shows on Bangor’s suddenly vibrant waterfront. City councilors worked with local promoter Alex Gray and his national partner, Live Nation, to secure a contract for a 2011 concert series, which is under way.

All along, both the city and the promoter understood that the stage’s current location — at the end of Railroad Street facing Main Street — was not permanent.

As the sides began discussing the possibility of a concert series for 2012 and beyond, the city started to receive more noise complaints from residents.

Weston said the new configuration, which still needs a formal council vote and the approval of Waterfront Concerts, should address those complaints.

“If we’re going to embrace the waterfront as a music venue, we need to do it responsibly,” he said. “The future of the concerts needs to be mindful of those concerns.”

Other reconfiguration options were discussed Wednesday, but none was attractive to either the city or the promoter. One option was moving the entire series to Bass Park, which would take away the waterfront appeal. Another was an area known as the “roundhouse,” which is tucked between the Interstate 395 bridge and the Fireside Inn.

The bigger conversation, one that is still ongoing, is whether a permanent staging structure and covered pavilion will be built in the future.

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