A new steel structure on Bangor’s waterfront is drawing lunchtime crowds to watch construction in an area of the city that has seen its share of broken promises on proposed projects ranging from a $4.3 million commercial building to a boat launch and condos.
The structure is part of a three-building campus where Bangor Savings Bank will house its new multi-million-dollar headquarters and consolidate employees from three existing buildings it owns throughout the city. The entire project is scheduled to be finished by the end of January 2019.
It will include energy-efficiency features. The headquarters building and parking garage will have solar roof panels. The garage rooftop solar panel system will generate about 680,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, or about 90 percent of the bank’s HVAC needs.
The landscaped park off of Railroad Street by the headquarters building will have 80 geothermal wells for heat and cooling. The buildings are using high-efficiency glazing and insulation. The design is open concept to use natural day lighting.
The idea is not only to save energy, but also to create a campus that will attract younger workers wanting open space indoors and outdoors, plus access to downtown restaurants and activities. The headquarters building will include a roof patio.
“We’ll have a bike rack, exercise room and campus where people can walk around,” Bob Montgomery-Rice, CEO of the bank, told the Bangor Daily News during an exclusive walk-through of the new campus on Wednesday. “We want to attract and keep younger people to work here. It’s about quality of life. They could be customer service representatives, credit analysts, technology workers or work in the call center.”
The bank draws younger workers now from Husson University and the University of Maine at Orono, and is beginning to pull some from out of state for its educational programs, Montgomery-Rice said.
He also sees the building as a sign that Bangor Savings is here to stay in the city. The bank was founded in 1852 and initially served customers in the Queen City’s lumber trade.
“It’s exciting to see construction of our new headquarters along the banks of the Penobscot, where our story began so many years ago,” he said.
Bangor Savings now operates nearly 60 branches across Maine and New Hampshire. On April 6 it completed a $45 million merger with New Hampshire-based Granite Bank that would give the combined banks about $4 billion in assets. That brings it neck-in-neck with Maine’s largest bank by assets, Camden National.
The new campus will include a three-storey, 35,250-square-foot building at 24 Hamlin Way, which was formerly 20 South St. but renamed to reflect the name of the bank’s founders, including Elijah Hamlin. That building, scheduled for completion at the end of June, will be the bank’s new corporate office.
The five-story, 116,000-square-foot building now under construction at 11 Hamlin Way and attracting lunchtime onlookers will contain backroom operations like the computer center. It is slated for completion by the end of January 2019. It also will house employees now working at the bank’s technology center and learning center.
Montgomery-Rice said the technology staff has increased about 10 percent in the last four years to 245, which is part of the reason the bank looked to expand to the new campus.
The 11 Hamlin Way building will meet the Maine Advanced Building program energy requirements, Montgomery-Rice said, which includes energy-efficient design, advanced lighting to harvest daylight and control for shade automatically, and the geothermal heat pump system that can be used for heating and cooling.
And the third building, adjoining 11 Hamlin Way, will be a four-story parking garage scheduled for completion this August. It can accommodate 350 to 400 cars.
The bank did not give a specific cost for the entire project, but estimates the three buildings and 4.6 acres will be valued at around $35 million, which translates into $760,000 in annual property taxes. That’s roughly three times the amount it pays on its three existing Bangor buildings, at 203 and 19 Maine Ave., plus its headquarters at 99 Franklin Street. It already has sold the 19 Maine Ave. building to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.
Building the garage will require razing the brick building next to the historic Zebulon Smith House at 55 Summer St. The home, which has been in the Franco family for generations, is known for its brick red exterior, white columns and distinctive brick chimneys.
Bangor Savings will pay to replace four of the five chimneys prior to constructing the garage, as they are in disrepair, said David Latulippe, president of C.J. Developers, a Freeport developer working on the Bangor Savings project.
The bank is using mostly local companies to build the campus. Sargent Corp. of Bangor is doing the site work. The renovation at 24 Hamlin Way is being done by Dunbar and Braun of Bangor. The 11 Hamlin Way new construction is being led by Cianbro Corp. and McLeod Well Drilling of Hermon is drilling the geothermal field.
The 24 Hamlin Way building was a mattress factory decades ago. More recently it housed a company called Alternative Energy, owned by the Hutchins family, which founded Dead River Co.
Bangor Savings added 5,000 square feet to the 30,000-square-foot building.
Brewer real estate developer Larry Springer bought the property from the Hutchins. It was then empty for about a dozen years before Bangor Savings bought it in January 2017 for an undisclosed price. However, it had been listed for $2.6 million by Maine Commercial Realty.
An attached building at 36 Pleasant St. formerly occupied by tax firm Berry Dunn and not affiliated with Bangor Savings is now on the market for $2.35 million.
Modernizing the old building at 24 Hamlin Way, formerly 20 South St. and before that 46 Pleasant St., has presented both challenges and revealed pleasant surprises, Latulippe said.
First, few of the 46 windows were the same size. And many had “false” arches made of wood that were converted to all glass when the windows were remade. Every window had to be custom-fitted, Latulippe said, as each measured half an inch to one inch different than the other windows.
“Some of that was because of the new air-vapor barriers we put in, and we wanted the windows to be beautiful,” he said.
While the building was dilapidated when Bangor Savings bought it, Latulippe credited the Hamlins with adding structural and other elements to improve the building in the 1980s. That included a large glass tower and a glass elevator, along with the steel structure needed to reinforce the building, which included a three-floor high fieldstone wall that divided the building in half.
“It was a pleasant surprise to pull down the sheetrock and see the field stone,” Latulippe said. ‘We wanted to preserve it, but it’s made of small stones and we had to figure out how to support them so we could cut archways through the wall to use both sides of the building.” The answer was steel supports.
Some 400 employees will move to the new campus when it is completed in January 2019. It can hold a total of 500 workers. Montgomery-Rice expects another expansion in about five years, when another 200 or so employees could be added.
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