Pickering Square in downtown Bangor. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

The long-awaited construction of a new transit hub in Pickering Square in downtown Bangor moved a step closer to completion on Monday, as the Bangor City Council’s finance committee approved a plan to hire firms to design it and to prepare the site for construction in 2021.

The city will hire Bangor-based Artifex Architects and Engineers, formerly known as Ames Associates, to design the new transit hub, which will include a standalone building and a new bus platform and canopy, at a cost of $60,000. The design should be completed by January 2021.

As the amount of money for the project is under $100,000, the full City Council does not have to approve the funding, though it will be on the consent agenda at next week’s council meeting.

The committee also approved a plan to prepare the site for construction next year, hiring Eastwood Contractors for the $32,000 job. In the coming weeks, workers will remove the raised island in between the square and the parking garage, and will remove the platform that used to house a fountain in Pickering Square. The current bus shelter will be moved, and part of the square will be fenced off.

Assistant City Manager Richard Cromwell said he expects construction on the new hub to begin in spring 2021, pending city approval on the final design.

“Theoretically, by fall of 2021 that building will be done,” Cromwell said. “I thought we’d have a building by now.”

The construction of a new transit hub has been a project nearly nine years in the making, marked by long-running debates about where it should be located within the city. As recently as January, the City Council weighed proposals to move it from Pickering Square to other locations around the city, but the council ultimately supported keeping it in the square.

The new hub is part of a large-scale overall remodel of Pickering Square. In 2019, work was completed on a project to redesign the Merchant’s Plaza area, and in spring of this year, the old footbridge across the Kenduskeag Stream was removed in order to replace it with a steel truss bridge. Alongside construction of the new hub, the city plans to remodel Pickering Square itself.

In November 2019, the city was awarded $1.29 million in federal funds to replace the old bus terminal that used to be in the nearby parking garage, but was permanently closed last summer for a renovation that changed the location of the garage’s entrance. A temporary bus hub is now in Pickering Square, but it lacks a heated shelter or a functioning bathroom. The city must use those funds by November 2023, or risk losing them.

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Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.