New Projects in Bangor, Brewer, Maine, Range from Hotels to Big Boxes

Major gaming and hotel complex is first sign of new projects in area

After weeks of waiting out the late wintry weather, area developers have sprung into action to begin construction on some highly anticipated retail businesses in Bangor and Brewer.

Excavation and construction sites for several new commercial buildings can be spotted throughout Bangor and Brewer. Projects range from big-box stores, hotels and a racino to local banks, retail operations and additions on thriving businesses.

The number of projects shows confidence in the economic strength of the region, said Jonathan Daniels, president and CEO of Eastern Maine Development Corp. in an interview earlier this week.

"Retail development is based on current and future investment opportunity. Analysts are looking at this market and they see that we are still ripe for retail development," Daniels said.

The Hollywood Slots at Bangor racino may be an unusual, "once-in-a-generation type of development," but it has encouraged hotel, retail and other business developers to invest in this region, Daniels said.

Hollywood Slots at Bangor, Penn National Gaming Inc.'s $131 million gaming and hotel complex, remains the most visible construction project in town.

"Everything is right on schedule," said spokeswoman Amy Kenney. "Everything's in line to start pouring concrete on the 23rd [of April]."

With an expected completion date of June 2008, the 116,000-square-foot

gaming facility will feature up to 1,500 slot machines, an attached four-story, 1,500-vehicle parking garage, and a seven-story hotel.

It also will include a new simulcast facility for off-track betting, a 350-seat buffet restaurant, a 125-seat specialty restaurant, two smaller private dining rooms, and a small cafe offering lighter fare, as well as retail space and a full-service bar with entertainment.

The racino will take up most of the 8-acre site that Penn National acquired last year at a cost of about $7 million. The site once housed the Holiday Inn-Civic Center, the Main Street Inn, several houses and a few small outbuildings.

But no retail projects have brought about as much consumer buzz as Lowe's Home Improvement in Brewer and a mysterious big-box store, widely speculated to be a second Lowe's, planned for Stillwater Avenue in Bangor.

The Lowe's in Brewer is set to appear where the closed Agway and Pickard's Sport Shop on Wilson Street are now. Developers have obtained all Department of Environmental Protection, city and Army Corps of Engineers permits, but the original plan to burn down the existing structures for firefighter training was called off because of insurance issues.

As crews continue to perform an environmental cleanup on the site, demolition plans are in the works. The Lowe's store is expected to open later this year and employ up to 200 people in its 139,410-square-foot retail center and 31,659-square-foot garden center.

No cost figures are available for the project, though it has been estimated to be in the millions. Other new Lowe's stores opening this year in other parts of the country are costing as much as $18.5 million.

Across the river, Bangor has approved a single, large-scale tenant at 638 Stillwater Ave., behind Circuit City and Chili's, according to Bangor Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wellington.

Though some residents say Lowe's is planning a second store in efforts to squeeze nearby Home Depot, Kevin Kane, a representative of landowner and developer Widewaters Stillwater Co. LLC, said Thursday he was unable to reveal the identity of the anchor store until a lease is signed. No cost estimate for the project is available.

Kane said Widewaters plans to begin construction this year, as soon as it receives the remaining state site development and storm water permits.

"It's our sincere hope to start as soon as physically possible," he said. "We're more than ready."

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