April 26, 2018
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City working to help downtown businesses worried about taking a hit from construction

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Construction crews are setting up shop downtown for the summer, causing business owners in the area to worry their customers will head elsewhere for the season.

City officials hope to alleviate some of that concern by promoting and marketing businesses near the heart of downtown that will see construction outside their windows. Downtown Bangor is open, and business leaders will need the community’s support to make it through construction season, Jason Bird, community and economic development officer for the city, said Wednesday.

“This is their livelihood and we recognize that,” he said. “We’re taking great pains to minimize this however we can.”

The project will be noisy and unsightly for downtown Bangor, with crews and heavy machinery digging into Broad Street and Bangor Alley and tearing up West Market Square to replace aging infrastructure underneath. Sewer and water lines, some dating back to World War I or even the Civil War, are at a breaking point and need to be modernized before major problems emerge, city engineers have said.

Connie Boivin, owner of Broad Street’s Charles Inn, said Wednesday that she expects business to take a hit throughout its normally busy summer season. She also said she recognizes that the work needs to happen to prevent damage resulting from a historic water or sewer line breaking.

Boivin said the inn’s attached bar and lounge, The Big Easy, will take the construction project in stride and plans on using it as a sort of marketing opportunity. They had plastic hard-hats made with the name of the business printed on them.

Boivin is worried that guests of her hotel, however, won’t find the construction as amusing. Some will stay away because of noise and the appearance of the square, she said. The inn also will have to figure out how to help guests get their bags to their rooms since they won’t be able to park and offload on Broad Street. Still, the work needs to happen and will be worth it in the long run, she said.

“We’re open and ready for business,” Boivin said. “We’re not going to let this stop us.”

Businesses that normally expand in summer by setting up tables in the square, Ipanema and the Big Easy, won’t be able to do that this year. The Blaze restaurant, which opened earlier this year, also will be confined to inside. Paddy Murphy’s Pub also won’t be able to set up outside dining on its Broad Street sidewalk.

Access to businesses will not be cut off and there will still be paths into each restaurant and shop. No businesses will be closed during the construction process.

Once the underground infrastructure work is completed, crews will give the square a whole new look, with new brickwork, vegetation, lighting, benches, trash cans and more. Crews expect to clear out of downtown sometime in the fall.

City officials and the Downtown Bangor Partnership are celebrating the beginning of West Market Square’s makeover with a ceremonial groundbreaking at the site at 1 p.m. Saturday. Part of the reason for the ceremony is to show appreciation for the businesses that will be affected by the work, according to Bird.

In hopes of drawing people downtown, 17 area businesses are offering special sales and deals throughout the course of construction.

For a full list of what the businesses are offering, visit https://bangordailynews.com/community/west-market-square-ceremonial-ground-breaking-and-sales/.

Bird said the city plans to purchase signs and media marketing and to be vocal on social media in hopes of bringing people to shop downtown and help businesses through what could be a challenging summer. Bird said businesses also will host “hardhat lunches,” where contractors and city engineering officials will go have lunch at local establishments and update the business owners on the progress of the project.

The city expects to use the slogan “Pardon Our Progress,” Bird said.

“People anticipate this will be a difficult time, and we’re going to do all we can to help ease that,” Bird said.

Regular progress updates on the West Market Square project are on the city’s website at http://www.bangormaine.gov/?id=2&sub_id=2880.


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