It’s easy to see the changes happening in downtown Bangor this time of year.
There are, of course, Waterfront Concerts, with performers including Willie Nelson and Tim McGraw. Events at Cross Insurance Center are going strong, with acts such as Cirque du Soleil and James Taylor. The free Cool Sounds concert series on Central Street every Thursday evening offers even more entertainment variety.
Events like these are drawing people to the area and creating a level of excitement about the Queen City. But it’s not just big-name performers and festivals that are contributing to the buzz. It’s a collection of developments, big and small.
For example, two long-vacant, historic properties on Broad Street are being renovated and turned into business space and apartments. Restaurants such as Verve, which serves burritos, quesadillas and smoothies, have opened and presented new food offerings. Geaghan Pub’s brewery has grown to the point where it’s hard to keep the bar stocked, so it will expand operations.
Things are changing underground, too. You might not like all the construction traffic downtown, but those workers are replacing Civil War-era sewer pipes. In a separate project, the Bangor Water District is replacing more than 3,000 feet of water lines. Once the work is done, the city can continue with plans to remake West Market Square and add median strips, widen sidewalks and improve lighting.
Businesses are also taking advantage of the city’s facade improvement grant program, which provides matching funds for updating windows, doors, awnings, storefronts, brickwork and signage, while retaining the downtown’s historic vibe. About $85,000 has been expended out of $100,000 available for 2014, according to the city.
Individual groups are focusing on how they can improve, too. For example, the Columbia Street Baptist Church is starting a number of projects to better connect people with social services. Members are going into the neighborhoods near the church to talk with residents directly about what their needs are — such as for child care or financial management — to then potentially address them over time.
The church is training people to become mentors for those recently released from prison. And it’s renovating a nearby historic building for community use.
KahBang music festival organizers may have announced they are moving the event to Portland – and it’s certainly a disappointment — but Bangor has many other special events happening here, and no doubt it will develop more in the years ahead.
What does it take to push downtown development forward? Perhaps it only takes a few dedicated people to get projects rolling that then gain momentum and draw others along. There is always more to do, but doesn’t Bangor look like it’s gathering momentum?
People want a city center they can be proud of, that they can feel safe in, and that they can use. They want stores, pubs, restaurants, entertainment and work spaces that enhance their quality of life. It’s easy to point out deficiencies in any city. But it’s just as important to look at what’s being done right in order to continue to build on it.