BANGOR, Maine — This week marked the 50th anniversary of a senator from Maine’s unprecedented announcement that she would run for the United States presidency.
Half a century later, the Bangor federal building that carries Margaret Chase Smith’s name hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of its $57 million overhaul. Renovations to the 47-year-old building started in September 2010. The project was funded by stimulus money under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
“This building is now a high-tech wonder,” said Robert Zarnetske, General Services Administration regional administrator for New England, during Thursday’s event, which drew a crowd of officials from federal and state agencies, local politicians and representatives of Maine’s congressional delegates.
The facility had “good bones,” but was designed to the needs of the time. It had limited handicapped accessibility, outdated security and fire suppression systems, and inefficient heating, cooling and lighting, according to Zarnetske.
The renovations include new fire protection systems, a more secure entrance, geothermal heating and cooling, solar panels, energy-efficient lighting, new windows, new communications technology and more.
All those changes earned the facility Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Platinum and Energy Star certifications and are expected to reduce energy consumption by 68 percent.
U.S. District Judge John Woodcock said the building had been “frozen in time” for nearly 45 years, but with these renovations it has “a new lease on life.”
The federal building is home to more than a dozen federal agencies and offices, along with federal courts. Officials say they expect to fill a few remaining vacancies in the near future.
The renovations freed up about 42,000 square feet of rentable space that had previously been unused or vacant. That cleared the way for new tenants.
Construction was considered “substantially complete” back in November, but for three years, people who work in the building continued to work there, shuffling around to make way for construction crews as they made their way through the building.
“What makes this renovation all the more remarkable is that it took place while we were working,” Woodcock said.
The loudest, dirtiest portions of the job typically were reserved for crews that worked overnight.
During the three years of work, more than 500 local trades and construction personnel — ranging from engineers to accountants — were contracted to chip in, along with 60 local subcontractors and suppliers, according to Patrick J. Sclafani, spokesman for the General Services Administration’s New England region in Boston.
“Like its namesake, the Margaret Chase Smith federal building is dedicated to improving the lives of the people of Bangor, the state of Maine and the nation,” Zarnetske said.