West Market Square, ‘heart of downtown,’ to get makeover after council backpedals

An artist's rendering of the West Market Square project.
City of Bangor
An artist's rendering of the West Market Square project. Buy Photo
Posted Sept. 09, 2013, at 10:24 p.m.
Plans have been unveiled for West Market Square revitalization. Most ideas are popular among business owners, but a few councilors want to shut down Broad Street entirely, which at least one business has said it is not at all OK with.
Plans have been unveiled for West Market Square revitalization. Most ideas are popular among business owners, but a few councilors want to shut down Broad Street entirely, which at least one business has said it is not at all OK with. Buy Photo
Plans have been unveiled for West Market Square revitalization. Most ideas are popular among business owners, but a few councilors want to shut down Broad Street entirely, which at least one business has said it is not at all OK with.
Plans have been unveiled for West Market Square revitalization. Most ideas are popular among business owners, but a few councilors want to shut down Broad Street entirely, which at least one business has said it is not at all OK with. Buy Photo
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BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor City Council changed its mind Monday night, pushing forward a $975,000 makeover of downtown focal point West Market Square.

Two weeks ago, the council voted to put half the project on the back burner, only moving ahead with about $420,000 worth of badly needed underground utility improvements and replacements in and around the square.

That decision delayed other plans for the site that city staff had been working on with business owners and councilors for more than two years, according to George Kinghorn, president of the Downtown Bangor Partnership. The city and businesses had hoped to have all the work done in one fell swoop, so the downtown didn’t have to deal with two separate disruptive construction phases.

Councilors said that with so many other projects going on at the same time, including a study about the future location of the bus hub, demolition of the old Bangor police station and Pickering Square, they were cautious to move forward with the full cost of the project, even though that money already had been set aside.

After a second presentation by city staff on the project plans, several councilors flipped and decided to rescind their previous vote and approve the full project. Had the project been done in two separate phases, crews would have had to tear up the square twice in separate years, rather than once next year. That would have added an additional $100,000 to the total cost of the project in the long run, according to city staff.

Alongside the underground improvements to century-plus-old infrastructure, the full renovation will include new brickwork, lighting, a sidewalk widening, benches to replace the deteriorating wooden ones, and tree and shrubbery removal and replacement. The project was meant to give the square a fresh look, improve safety and eventually connect Bangor’s downtown with the waterfront.

About $800,000 worth of the project will be funded through city tax increment financing and sewer funds, with the remainder coming from Bangor Water District funds. There also will be some alternative bid items that the city may not move forward with at this point.

“[The Downtown Bangor Partnership is] very pleased that the council reconsidered,” Kinghorn said after the meeting. “We feel this is the heart of the downtown and is in dire need of some attention.”

Also during Monday night’s meeting, the council voted to:

• Issue a $300,000 bond to cover a roof replacement for City Hall. Work will begin in the near future, as the new roof needs to be in place before snow flies. The last time the city replaced the Harlow Street building’s roof was in 1999, when it spent just under $62,000 on a PVC membrane roof that had a 10-year expected life span. Fourteen years later, some of the rainiest summer months on record have revealed leaks that city staff worry will cause structural problems if not fixed soon.

• Accept a $1,000 donation from Freightliner of Maine dedicated toward keeping the Community Connector’s Odlin Road bus route alive. The route, the least traveled in the system, was targeted for elimination during the latest difficult budget season. Councilors and community members came out in defense of the route, pushing to raise money to keep the route going until a more permanent solution can be found. So far, the city has collected $5,000 in donations.

• Replace the city’s current ordinance that regulates disabled parking violations with one that charges offenders under city ordinance rather than state law. Under the current system, fines handed out by police to people who violate disabled parking regulations go to the state. WIth this change, that money will go to the city instead.

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