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."
The site development plan calls for a 114,000-square-foot anchor, a 21,000-square-foot garden area and two smaller freestanding buildings of 6,000 and 3,128 square feet, which Kane said will house a sit-down restaurant and an unspecified convenience-retail business. The shopping center will be served by a 600-space parking lot.
The anchor widely believed to be Lowe's is sited on land that once was eyed for a Wal-Mart Supercenter, but because this project is on a smaller parcel and farther from the Penjajawoc Marsh, it has been less controversial.
Farther down Stillwater Avenue, the city is working on the Hogan Road extension to accommodate the 209,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter. The city also has approved a 3,000-square-foot bank and a 6,000-square-foot restaurant adjacent to the Wal-Mart.
The project is expected to cost $23.6 million.
The Supercenter project will trigger $3.4 million in off-site street improvements that must be completed before the store's planned May 2008 opening because of the traffic volume it is projected to generate. The city also will take on traffic improvements in the coming construction season, including additional lanes and signal improvements.
By the time all is said and done, the commercial section of Stillwater will have five lanes of traffic and Hogan Road will have seven lanes, City Engineer Jim Ring confirmed this week.
Also near the Bangor Mall are two hotel projects.
Construction is under way at 200 Sylvan Road on a 92-room, 55,000-square-foot Marriott Courtyard. Behind the $8 million project is Freeport-based Maine Course Hospitality Group, which owns hotels and restaurants throughout New England, including the Ground Round restaurant in Bangor and the Muddy Rudder restaurant in Brewer.
Meanwhile, the local partnership Dublin 5 LLC is gearing up to build a 135-room Hilton Garden Inn on a 5-acre parcel located along an extension of Haskell Road. Dublin 5 is a partnership among Bangor developers Tony Valley and Mark Eremita, and Ed Dennis, their Irish partner who has two decades of experience in the hotel industry.
The hotel will include a state-of-the-art conference center, restaurant, tennis court, swimming pool, fitness room and Jacuzzi. A final project price tag hasn't been determined.
On Broadway, Bangor Savings Bank has purchased the Friendly's building. The bank is awaiting approval from the city's planning committee to tear down the closed restaurant and construct a branch that will be larger than its existing one at the Broadway Shopping Plaza.
Bangor Savings Bank senior vice president Yellow Light Breen said the bank is very excited about leasing part of the building to a "major coffeehouse," but declined to give details because no lease has been signed. Breen said he hopes the building and tenant will be open by Jan. 1, 2008. A cost estimate for the project was not available.
The building at 706 Broadway that houses Guernsey Monuments and the Guernsey family will be demolished to make way for construction of a 14,550-square-foot Walgreens pharmacy with a drive-through window, according to the city planning office.
Edward Guernsey, 74, said he likely will move his monument business elsewhere because he is not ready to retire. When asked, Guernsey said he did not feel sad about the pending sale of his property.
"When I bought it I knew it was going to be torn down someday when I sold it to move or retire. Most of the buildings on Broadway, like the McDonald's, used to be residential," Guernsey said.
Guernsey declined to reveal what developers will pay for his property, but he said he hopes to close on the purchase in July. A July closing could mean work on the project would begin in August and finish in November.
Walgreens has not yet signed a lease and for that reason declined to comment.
One of the more unusual projects is the crematorium Brookings-Smith Funeral Homes is building off Hammond Street Extension near Bangor International Airport.
"We're probably 80 percent done," General Manager Jim Fernald said this week. "We're really excited about it."
The crematorium, slated to open in June on a 1.7-acre parcel at Pine Grove Cemetery, will be Bangor's second. The first opened in the early 1970s at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Fernald said the crematorium would have a remembrance center, a small chapel for committal services and a viewing room.
"We have a nice, natural setting," Fernald added. "Although we're really right beside the airport, we're nestled among pine trees. We've even had a flock of wild turkeys around during construction."
There are several more business construction efforts, according to the Bangor and Brewer code enforcement offices:
. The former Pilots Grill restaurant at 1528 Hammond St. in Bangor was reborn Wednesday as a furniture store. Paul Currier, owner of Affordable Furniture Showcase, says he is selling new furniture and used furniture on consignment.
. Realty of Maine is expanding its 458 Main St. office in Bangor next to the McDonald's restaurant. Owner David Sleeper said the 1,500-square-foot addition will result in a full second story for the firm's 75 licensed real estate agents, some of whom work there full time. Work began six weeks ago and should be done in June.
Though it would have been easier to expand elsewhere, Sleeper said Friday he bought the building about two years ago knowing that Hollywood Slots at Bangor's permanent gaming complex was coming to the neighborhood.
. The Jiffy Print at 499 Broadway in Bangor is in the midst of renovating a former bakery across the street, and staff hope to move the store and reopen by the end of May.
. Tim Hortons at 594 Broadway in Bangor is pouring asphalt on its driveway and plans to hire 30-40 employees and open in mid-June. Jamie and Jayne Myers of Bangor are the franchisees and also operate a Tim Hortons in Newport. The 3,000-square-foot doughnut, coffee and sandwich shop will be open 24 hours a day with a drive-through window and seating for 65 people, Jamie Myers said.
. A new Maine Savings Federal Credit Union branch at 671 Broadway in Bangor will open in mid-May. The 6,200-square-foot, one-story, full-service facility will have three drive-up lanes and one ATM, said John Reed, president and CEO of the Hampden-based bank.
. In November, Dead River Co. broke ground at 395 Main St. in Bangor to erect a 3,000-square-foot Dead River Convenience store and Shell gas station. Alan Dorr, Dead River spokesman, said the company plans to open at the end of May or early June.
. On the corner of Hammond and Union streets in Bangor, developer and contractor John Karnes has renovated an existing four-unit apartment building, to which he has added two units. Karnes, a resident of Bangor, is also building a free-standing six-unit building on the lot.
. A 10-lot residential subdivision has been proposed on Molly Lane off Stillwater Avenue in Bangor. No construction has begun because developers have not applied for building permits.
. Downeast Toyota at 652 Wilson St. in Brewer is putting on two additions: a two-story, 1,600-square-foot attached service office and employee gym and a service bay area of 10,400 square feet.
. Coming before the Brewer Planning Board next month is Williams Roofing office and self-storage facility on Liberty Drive.
. Two new housing developments are anticipated in Brewer: Chamberlain Point, an 11-lot residential subdivision off North Main Street in the vicinity of the Chamberlain Woods subdivision; and Nature's Way Estates, a 14-lot upscale residential subdivision off Lambert Road near the Eddington town line. Each lot will range in size from 2.4 acres to 4.4 acres. Dennis and Sharon Davis of Brewer and Charles Adams of Dedham are having the lots hooked up to city water and plan to expand it to 35 lots in the future, Dennis Davis said.
BANGOR DAILY NEWS PHOTO BY GABOR DEGRE
Edward Guernsey, 74, has lived in his home on Broadway in Bangor for 38 years and moved his monument business there in the mid-1980s. He decided to sell the land and house to a developer who plans to build and lease the space to Walgreens drugstore.