By Richard R. Shaw
Special to The Weekly
BANGOR, Maine — If years had names, 2013 might be dubbed “The Year of the Changing Landscape.” In the past 12 months, Bangor witnessed the razing of its auditorium and civic center, a grandstand, two fast food restaurants, a former laundry, a radio antenna and 100-year-old homes. The city rebuilt the restaurants and grandstand, a concert stage and library dome, started on a hospital tower, erected a $65 million arena and events center, and added several mallside businesses.
And that’s just for starters.
Queen City residents might be hard-pressed to recall a year when “out with the old, in with the new” had more relevance. Somehow, the city retained its charm, with a historic waterfront and downtown, vibrant neighborhoods, and a healthy vision for the future.
Out with the old
Springtime brought change to Bass Park as crews began demolishing the 58-year-old auditorium and the 1978 civic center. Stadium seats in the sports and entertainment mecca were sold to collectors to benefit the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame.
Throughout the summer and fall, the obsolete Cameron Stadium grandstand and former WLBZ radio south tower on Broadway, both built around 1944, were toppled. Also razed were the New Franklin Laundry on Fern Street, where a young Stephen King washed hotel linen, as well as six old First Street houses. Energy-efficient homes are replacing the laundry, and affordable rental units soon will go up on First Street.
The Bangor Public Library’s copper dome left its perch for the first time in a century, replaced by a shiny rebuilt topper. The Waterfront Concerts stage was spun 90 degrees to address neighbors’ acoustical concerns.
Continuity of Community, the iconic West Market Square sculpture, was moved to the waterfront near a monument recognizing the sister-city relationship between the Queen City and Harbin, China. Near the Bangor Mall, McDonald’s and Wendy’s were knocked down and rebuilt, and at Eastern Maine Medical Center, the one-story Stetson Building was leveled to make way for a seven-story, $247 million facility.
At the Bangor Museum and History Center, the removal of the exterior sign at 159 Union St. heralded a seasonal shutdown following the resignation of the executive director and curator. A budget shortfall was blamed.
In with the new
A series of events celebrating the opening of the Cross Insurance Center kicked off Sept. 10 with a ribbon cutting, followed by a public tour and performances by the Harlem Globetrotters, the official arena openers. A new Cameron Stadium grandstand was the first phase of the facility’s $4 million facelift. Bangor City Hall got a new roof, and holiday shoppers were greeted by festive lighting wrapped around trees in downtown’s Hannibal Hamlin Mall.
New businesses opening along Stillwater Avenue included Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Town Fair Tire, sweetFrog Premium Frozen Yogurt, Hobby Lobby and Buffalo Wild Wings. Bangor Pet Quarters and 99 Restaurant closed their doors, but more mallside development is expected to continue into 2014.
For the first time since 1889, the Bangor Daily News began printing its paper far from the Queen City. After closing its Hampden production facility, it moved operations to plants in Lewiston, Brunswick and Presque Isle. The change is expected to save the paper money in the coming years.
Bangor wasn’t the only community where the landscape changed in 2013. Over the town line in Veazie, a convenience store — once home to the Wong family’s Ho Sai Guy restaurant — was demolished to make way for a Tradewinds Variety Store. Down the Penobscot River, the 1931 Waldo-Hancock Bridge came down with great fanfare.
The times they are a-changin,’ and 2013 saw more than its share of changes.