June 18, 2018
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Redevelopment of Orono downtown site may start this summer

Kevin Bennett | BDN
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A crowd gathers at the intersection of Bennoch Road and Forest Ave. in Orono on Tuesday, August 4, 2009, to watch the demolition of the historic Katahdin Building located at 6 Bennoch Road. Fire damage from a June 9, 2009 fire damaged the building beyond repair.
By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — A gap that has existed in the downtown streetscape since 2009 is expected to be filled later this year when University Credit Union and the town embark on a joint development venture — the redevelopment of the Katahdin Building site.

The Katahdin Building, which stood at the intersection of Main Street and Bennoch Road since the 1820s, was gutted by a fire in June 2009. After what remained of the building was razed, Orono town officials focused on redeveloping the site.

Matthew Walsh, UCU’S president and CEO, said Friday that the credit union and the town signed a memorandum of agreement on the project with UCU in January of last year and have been working on schematics, designs and property acquisition since then.

The UCU headquarters building — a 16,000-square-foot Greek Revival-style structure — will consist of two wings and include drive-through lanes, a parking area and an urban plaza, Orono Town Manager Sophie Wilson and Planner Evan Richert said Friday.

According to the development pact, UCU will be responsible for the building, the town will build an 88-space parking lot and the two parties will share the cost of developing the urban plaza.

Wilson said the plaza — which will have seating, a sculpture and other amenities — will serve as a community gathering spot.

The town is gearing up to tear down a nearby apartment building and its recreational building in anticipation of the parking lot, part of which will be available for public use, Wilson said.

The new headquarters building will enable UCU to pull together about 20 administrative staff now working in three locations — the main office on Rangeley Road on the University of Maine campus and the technology center on Park Street, both in Orono, and on Union Street in Bangor.

The move also will free up space at UCU’s growing retail locations, Walsh said. He said the Park Street building will be sold.

Walsh said the project is moving into the final design and budgeting phase. If all goes to plan, construction should begin in June and be completed nine or 10 months later.

Walsh said Friday that UCU will occupy about a third of the build and hopes to find other businesses to share the rest of the space.

“The building is about 16,000 square feet and we’re leasing out about 4,500 square feet,” he said.

“We’ve talked to various parties that are just inquiries at this point,” he said. “We have had some interest from various parties, both local and national firms, so we’re starting to gain traction. I assume that once we start construction we’ll have a lot of interest.”

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