June 20, 2018
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USDA Rural Development awards $2 million to Orono for Katahdin site redevelopment

By Dawn Gagnon, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel announced Tuesday a total of $3.5 million in funding will be issued to four projects in Maine, including a $2 million loan earmarked for Orono’s effort to redevelop the Katahdin Building site.

According to Manuel, Orono has been awarded a $2 million Community Facility Direct Loan for the purpose of expanding the town parking lot at the corner of Main Street and Bennoch Road.

The parking lot expansion represents Orono’s contribution to a joint project with the University Credit Union, which is gearing up to build a headquarters building on the site. The site has been vacant since the former Katahdin Building, which had stood there since the 1820s, was gutted by a fire in June 2009.

The UCU headquarters — a 16,000-square-foot Greek Revival-style structure — will consist of two wings and include drive-through lanes, a parking area and an urban plaza, Orono Town Manager Sophie Wilson and Planner Evan Richert said last month.

Wilson said the plaza — which will have seating, a sculpture and other amenities — will serve as a community gathering spot. The town is gearing up to tear down a nearby apartment building and its recreational building in anticipation of the parking lot, part of which will be available for public use, Wilson said.

Matthew Walsh, UCU’S president and CEO, said the new headquarters will enable UCU to pull together about 20 administrative staff now working in three locations and will free up space at UCU’s growing retail locations.

According to a memorandum of agreement with the town, UCU will be responsible for the building, the town will build an 88-space parking lot and the two parties will share the cost of developing the urban plaza.

If all goes to plan, construction will begin in June and be completed by next spring, Walsh said. UCU will occupy about a third of the building and hopes to find tenants for the rest of the space.

Also receiving Rural Development funding are:

• The Bath Area YMCA in Bath, which will receive a $1.15 million Community Facility Direct Loan for energy efficiency improvements, upgrades and debt refinancing. The YMCA will convert from oil to natural gas, install energy-efficient lighting and replace its HVAC unit.

• The Bethel Water District, which will receive a $275,000 Water and Waste Disposal Loan for replacing aged cast-iron water mains.The upgrade will allow better flow for fire protection, improved water quality and reliable service to 624 customers.

• The Penquis Mental Health Association in Dover-Foxcroft, which will receive a $131,000 Community Facility Direct Loan to purchase an existing residential facility that will provide essential development and intellectual disabilities services. The facility will house the group’s Adult Residential Supported Living program.

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