Cost, building concerns prompt city to revise approach to marketing Front Street

The city of Bangor has six parcels available for private development. These parcels are surrounded by 18 acres of public space, including a waterfront walkway, performance venues and a 12-acre riverfront park.
Eric Zelz | BDN
The city of Bangor has six parcels available for private development. These parcels are surrounded by 18 acres of public space, including a waterfront walkway, performance venues and a 12-acre riverfront park. Buy Photo
By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff
Posted June 04, 2013, at 9:35 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Bangor will take a trio of small development sites along the Bangor Waterfront out of its retail marketing materials because it’s unlikely anyone would be able to afford to build on them.

Three plots of land between Front Street and the water were once considered prime locations for businesses or restaurants by the city, which included the plots in a grand 15-year-old development plan for the Bangor Waterfront.

“They’re really not ready to be developed at this point,” Tanya Pereira, an economic development specialist for the city, told the Business and Economic Development Committee during a Tuesday evening meeting.

In order to build a restaurant or store at one of those locations, the developer would need to drive pilings into the soft earth to get to the bedrock below. At parcel 3, the pilings would need to be driven down at least 50 feet.

Estimates for building a usable foundation at those three parcels are around $400,000, and those numbers are several years old, according to Director of Public Services Art Morgan. Neither the city, nor most developers, would be able to pump that amount of money into a project before even starting construction on the building itself, according to city officials.

In the unlikely event that the city were to receive a “spectacular offer” from a developer, then the city would open talks, Pereira said.

A year of negotiations between the city and Bar Harbor-based Fish House Grille, which hopes to build an expansion restaurant on Front Street, were put on hold in September when the restaurant’s parent company decided to put the Bangor restaurant on the back burner and instead acquire Cherrystones, a Bar Harbor eatery. Owners have said they would reconsider a Bangor expansion in the future.

The Main Street parcel, a long development zone along Main Street, likely will be home to Waterfront Concerts for at least the next decade under an agreement with the city, the details of which are still in the works.

The city is still looking for suitors for a lot at the intersection of Railroad and Summer streets. Another parcel known as the Round House parcel, located behind Geaghan’s Restaurant and Pub and adjacent to Interstate 395, also is available for development.

City officials also are trying to determine where the Bangor Band’s future bandstand or performance gazebo might be located. It’s likely to end up in either parcel 2 or 3 because parcel 1, closest to Sea Dog Brewing Co., is home to the harbormaster’s building. Councilors hope the structure could double as a wedding venue.

The band lost its gazebo in Paul Bunyan Park in 2011 when it was demolished to make way for the Cross Insurance Center.

Also during Tuesday night’s meeting, Pereira presented the city’s new “Bangor Development Guide.” The document is meant to lay out the process for potential developers interested in bringing a business or venture to Bangor.

Pereira acknowledged that Bangor historically has a reputation among some developers of being “difficult to work with.

“We really need to be able to be more responsive,” Pereira said.

As part of the effort to create a streamlined development process in Bangor and remove “red tape,” each potential developer would be handed the guide and assigned an “account manager” from the Community and Economic Development Department, who would work with the developer to ensure they have any questions answered as quickly and simply as possible. The guide lays out a standardized process for what approvals and steps are required to complete a successful development deal.

Councilor Patricia Blanchette said during the meeting that she would like to have the city get feedback from any developers who use this new guide and account manager to help them through the process.

“They’re the only ones that can tell us if we’re on the right track,” she said.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/04/news/bangor/bangor-committee-eyes-future-of-waterfront-as-staff-tries-to-ease-development/ printed on December 20, 2014