Orono town manager cleared to sign contract for designer of downtown landmark

Posted May 15, 2012, at 5 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — Town Manager Sophie Wilson said she plans to sign a contract within the next week that will allow the Bangor’s WBRC Architects-Engineers to design a new downtown centerpiece.

WBRC will work with University Credit Union and municipal officials to develop a plan for UCU’s new headquarters, which will be located at the intersection of Bennoch Road and Main Street, also known as the Katahdin site.

“I think we have a contract that is pretty much finalized,” Wilson said Tuesday.

The plot of land was formerly home to the historic Katahdin Building, which was torn down in August 2009, nine weeks after a fire gutted the building. The site has remained vacant since.

But that will start to change later this year or in early 2013, when UCU hopes to begin construction on a 16,000-square-foot building that will include drive-through lanes, a parking area and a plaza, Matthew Walsh, UCU’S president and CEO, has said.

The town signed a memorandum of agreement on the project with UCU in January.

UCU will be responsible for the building, while the town will handle the design and cover costs of the parking area, Wilson said.

Walsh has said UCU would need to occupy only about 8,000 square feet of the building at first, and the credit union would lease out the other half of the building to other companies for retail or office space.

The town council voted during Monday night’s meeting to allow Wilson to sign a contract with WBRC for architectural and engineering services up to $174,312, which would be paid for by downtown tax increment financing funds.

After the contract is signed, WBRC will submit a project schedule to UCU, according to the terms of the contract.

WBRC also will determine what designs would and would not work on the site, according to Wilson. Early artist renderings feature a brick building with a clock tower. The plaza area drawings feature a fountain, garden area and benches.

Town Planner Evan Richert said the site could become the downtown’s new “focal point.”

The town also has deals with the owners of buildings at 11 and 3 Main St. — the last two properties on the street between the Katahdin Site and the Stillwater River — that will allow the town or UCU to purchase or make the first offer on those properties if the owners decide to sell, Wilson said.

“It’s a public private partnership that we’re very excited about,” Wilson said of the Katahdin redevelopment project.

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