June 18, 2018
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Orono awarded grant to upgrade, rehabilitate downtown storefronts

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — The second time’s a charm. Orono has been awarded $150,000 to spruce up its downtown storefronts through the Maine Office of Community Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program.

The announcement came earlier this month and about 10 months after the town was denied a DECD facade improvement grant after a group of business owners agreed to invest a total of about $200,000 on upgrades for their buildings.

Seven downtown property owners have signed on to upgrade their facades, according to Town Planner Evan Richert.

The town first has to iron out details of its plan and its agreement with the DECD. An architect from WBRC Architects-Engineers in Bangor then will sit down with the owners to plan upgrades to their buildings.

Richert said work could begin by late August or early September. Some projects will have to wait until the next construction year, but urgent improvements, such as repairing stairwells and entryways, will start sooner.

“I think quite a lot could be done this season,” Richert said.

As part of the grant application, business owners agreed to match the amount of the development grant. Part of that money will go toward fixing the sidewalks on Mill Street, Richert said.

The facade improvements will be one of two major projects in planning stages in the town.

University Credit Union plans to build its new headquarters at the intersection of Bennoch Road and Main Street, also known as the Katahdin site.

The plot of land was formerly home to the historic Katahdin Building, which was torn down in August 2009, nine weeks after a fire gutted the building. The site has remained vacant since.

“I think [the facade project] will be a good complement to the redevelopment of the Katahdin Building site,” Richert said.

The revitalization of downtown storefronts will be a “good start” toward giving Orono a new look, according to Richert.

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