Ellsworth moves ahead on plans for former schools

By Mario Moretto, BDN Staff
Posted July 20, 2012, at 1:41 p.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The city is one step closer to turning a former school site into the city’s signature park while renovating another former school into a community and senior center.

The city has signed a $279,000 deal with Woodard and Curran, a Bangor engineering firm, to lead the efforts to turn the former Bryant E. Moore school into a community center and home for the city’s senior programs.

It also enlisted local architect Victor Rydlizky for about $26,700 to refine the design of Knowlton Park, which the city will build where the Dr. Charles C. Knowlton School once stood.

Most of the money for both projects comes from grants, loans and, in the case of the 4.5-acre Knowlton Park project, donations. Rydlizky also has agreed to donate $10,000 worth of time to the design work for the park.

The Moore and Knowlton schools were made redundant when the city opened its new K-8 school on State Street in fall 2010. The Knowlton school was razed in 2011 to make room for the park, which already features a large, popular playground. The city rents the Moore school to the Downeast Family YMCA for $1 per year, and the group uses the building for its childcare and day-camp programs. The YMCA also leases a portion of the building to Friends in Action, which offers free services and classes to senior citizens and disabled people.

Both plans have been in the works for years. The city identified the Knowlton site early on as a possible location for a signature city park, which officials and residents have said is needed in Ellsworth.

The city is home to several small parks: The Harbor Park at the city marina on the Union River offers a field, gazebo and barbecue pits. The S.K. Whiting Park at the corner of High and Main streets features a few benches, flowers and a pedestal clock. But neither park is suited for much active recreation.

“We’ve got these little parks in Ellsworth, but no true downtown city park,” said Elena Piekut, assistant to the city planner. “We’ve figured out that [the Knowlton Park] is within 15 minutes walking distance of 500 residences. It’s convenient to the community center, both of the schools, walkable from downtown.”

Plans for the park include an all purpose field, a pavilion for shade or cover from passing rain, an amphitheater for outdoor movies and a water feature, possibly a fountain of some kind, for children to play in during hot summer months. The playground already at the park will stay, while plans for a basketball court have been scrapped to make room for more open green space.

The committee has contracted Gary Friedman and Associates as a fundraising consultant for the park project, the total cost of which is expected to come in at just under $1 million. Fundraising efforts started last month, but the committee had already raised about $10,000 through word-of-mouth, said City Manager Michelle Beal.

Friedman and Associates are contracted through the end of 2013, said City Planner Michele Gagnon, and the committee hopes to have its share of the money in hand by that time.

At the former Moore school on State Street, plans call for expanded day care facilities, a cafe, a courtyard and renovation of the old stage and auditorium. The YMCA and Friends in Action have already opened a conference room and a computer lab in the building.

Beal said that renovations to the building will likely total about $3 million, though that’s a rough, preliminary figure. A large portion of those dollars will be spent to make the building ADA compliant, including installation of an elevator, handicapped-accessible bathrooms, and wheelchair ramps throughout the school. The building also will get a revised traffic-flow with a drop-off area for people and a delivery area. Then there’s the necessary upgrades to stormwater systems and other utilities.

“Planning has come as far as we can go with concept plans,” said City Councilor John Moore on Thursday. “Now we need final plans, documents and specs to be able to put it out to bid.”

Enter Woodard and Curran, the city’s go-to engineering firm for municipal projects. The company has told the city that if all goes well, the project could be finalized, put out to bid and shovel-ready by spring 2013.

Follow Mario Moretton on Twitter at @riocarmine.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/07/20/news/hancock/ellsworth-moves-ahead-on-plans-for-former-schools/ printed on September 18, 2014