BANGOR, Maine — A significant construction and infrastructure improvement project planned for West Market Square in the heart of downtown Bangor is expected to result in a tough summer for businesses in the vicinity.
City and construction officials met with downtown business owners Wednesday to hear concerns and go over plans for the project, which is scheduled to start in April and run through September.
The project is badly needed but is likely to cause headaches throughout the summer, according to Art Morgan, director of Public Services for the city.
The visible portion of the renovation will be a modernization of West Market Square — new brickwork, wider sidewalks, benches, lighting, trees and more. The entire square essentially will be rebuilt from scratch.
During the course of the $1.27 million project, more vital work will be going on under the surface.
“We’ll be replacing the sewer on Main Street, which was installed just after the Civil War,” Morgan said. “We’ve got some large infrastructure needs, we’re going to take care of those as part of this project so we don’t have a catastrophic failure that we don’t anticipate in the future.”
Other sewer lines in the project area were installed before World War I and have partially collapsed. Crews also will replace a water main and sewer infrastructure on Broad Street that was installed at the turn of the 20th Century.
The tentative project start date is April 15, but that could be pushed back or ahead depending on weather, according to Barney Silver of Lou Silver Inc.
“The sooner we get in the sooner we can get out,” Silver said. “It’s going to feel like a long haul, and we just want to minimize it as much as we can.”
During portions of construction, Bangor Alley and Broad Street will be shut down. Main Street traffic could be detoured at times, but the city hopes to keep any shutdowns limited to the nighttime.
The city’s water district will need to cut off water service to several buildings around the square during construction. Those outages should be limited to under eight hours and scheduled in a way that will affect business operations as little as possible.
During Wednesday’s meeting, Brad Ryder, owner of Epic Sports at the corner of Hammond and Central streets, said he was worried about the effect the construction might have on businesses in the area.
“It can be catastrophic to a business,” he said. “You may as well just shut your doors and lock them up.”
Despite the dug-up sidewalks and work crews, businesses will remain open throughout the process. Jason Bird, the liaison between the city and the Downtown Bangor Partnership, said the organization would do what it can to promote the businesses and spread the word that downtown is still open.
Bird said the public should know that these businesses will be “suffering through some pain for this long-term goal,” and hopefully customers will continue to come out to support them through the challenging stretch of construction. He said the Downtown Bangor Partnership would spread that message through social media.
Signs also may be placed pointing out the easiest ways for people to get to business entrances. Sidewalks will still be passable, but may be only dirt or gravel.
The city also is in talks with Bangor Natural Gas about hooking buildings around the square up to natural gas lines.
Noise also was a concern for business owners at the meeting. The city said there will be no drilling or blasting, but that other construction noises from digging and heavy machinery are unavoidable. Most of that work will be limited to the daytime to avoid disturbing downtown residents at night.
A full video of the project meeting is available here.