March 26, 2019
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Waterfront development in high gear with Concerts stage repositioning, park work

John Clarke Russ | BDN
John Clarke Russ | BDN
Lynyrd Skynyrd fans Rachel Malcolm (left) of Trenton and Jamie Tate-Copeland whoop it up with thousands of others as Charlie Daniels arrives onstage as the opening act for the Hollywood Slots Waterfront Concert Series in August 2010.

BANGOR, Maine — A decades-long effort to redevelop Bangor’s waterfront is gaining momentum, and will be at full speed this fall with construction and site work done for both a repositioned Waterfront Pavilion concert venue and a new Waterfront Park.

Construction on both projects could begin as early as September.

The reorientation of the Waterfront Concerts stage, which will not become permanent yet, will cost approximately $650,000. It involves ample topographical site work as it is moved closer but perpendicular to Main Street and aimed toward Railroad Street and downtown. It will sit roughly across Main Street from the main entrance to Shaw’s Supermarket.

The Waterfront Park plan — estimated at nearly $500,000 — involves paving the gravel secondary walkways and bike paths, installing rain gardens and lighting along the walkways, relocating Clark Battle Fitz-Gerald’s Continuity of Community sculpture previously located at West Market Square downtown, and restoring the vegetation lost to the Penobscot River coal tar cleanup effort.

“We started these ongoing improvements, I want to say, back in the 1990s, but the first real upgrade was done in 2001,” said Bangor civil engineer Art Morgan, referring to construction of the Penobscot Riverfront bulkhead used for mooring big boats in 2000 and creating the Waterfront pathways in 2001. “So we’ve been at this in earnest for more than a decade.”

The concert amphitheater reorientation work could begin as early as September or October and will likely continue into May. Park work should begin shortly after the American Folk Festival winds up in late August. The move was originally planned for early this year, but the estimated cost of the move exceeded early expectations and city officials needed more time to complete the necessary permitting process.

Funding for both projects will come from the city’s Downtown Development Tax Increment Financing and Community Development Block Grant funds.

“I would attribute this to [recently retired community and economic director] Rod McKay and the work he’s done,” said Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow. “The idea is to create that special public area that draws people to Bangor and connects everything along the Main Street corridor to downtown.”

Conlow says she sees this latest phase of work as the continuation of a long-term goal.

“The council would eventually like to see connection from the waterfront to the arena area and downtown,” she explained.

Could that mean the concert facility may eventually — as Waterfront Concerts representatives have requested — become a permanent one?

“If this works — we will have to do more studies — and it mitigates the noise issues, yes, I think this could be a big step toward a permanent facility,” Conlow said.

A few Bangor residents near the Main Street corridor have voiced complaints about the volume and vulgar language accompanying some shows.

“The new location plays into the use of the waterfront while respecting neighbors’ concerns about the noise,” said Morgan. “Council has authorized a consultant to hire a sound engineer to evaluate effects this change will have on sound in adjacent neighborhoods.”

Morgan said the new concert facility will have an attendance capacity of 10,000 seated fans, roughly the same as the current one.

“Right now they can probably max out around 11,000 to 12,000, and we hope to have the ability to match that with this new facility,” Morgan said.

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