Some people want to see Pickering Square used as a performance space, while some suggested swing sets or a carousel.
Pickering Square in Bangor. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Now that Bangor’s new transit center is open and infrastructure work is complete on Water Street, the city can get to the last bit of business at hand for the area along Merchant’s Plaza: redesigning Pickering Square.

Bangor’s engineering department held a series of forums over the past month to solicit public comments about what to include in the area, which formerly was composed of a large open brick area in front of the parking garage and a mix of grass and brick stretching toward West Market Square.

With that large open brick area gone and the transit center in its place, the rest of the area needs attending. It will be the final step in a larger-scale plan that has been in the works for more than five years.

Currently, there are a few trees, brick pathways and a large open grassy area, all of which would be replaced.

Both city engineer John Theriault and city landscape architect Jefferson Davis said there were common themes that arose from the comments received from the public.

“People want a flexible space that can be programmed in many different ways throughout the seasons,” Davis said. “They don’t want it to be just one thing — they want it to be able to be used for lots of things.”

Two of the top ideas that came to light were designing it so part of the area could be used as a performance space for concerts, like the Cool Sounds Concert Series, which took place for many years in both West Market and Pickering squares before being canceled in 2019.

Theriault said people also wanted more seating, including benches and picnic tables, and the possible inclusion of an informational kiosk or wayfinding signage.

While some of the area will be brick sidewalk, Theriault said many people want to retain green space and add more greenery or trees. And improved lighting was also a priority, given the perception among some community members and nearby business owners that the area can be unsafe, and that fights, panhandling and public intoxication create an unpleasant environment.

“People definitely want to see that area be lit up at night quite a bit more,” Davis said. “It makes people feel a lot safer.”

A few more unorthodox ideas were suggested, including installing swing sets for adults and children. One person even suggested a carousel.

“It’s certainly a fun idea, but we also need to think about things that won’t take up too much space and won’t require a ton of maintenance, and be able to be used most of the year,” Theriault said.

Theriault said that his department plans to bring a preliminary design to Bangor’s infrastructure committee later this month, and then they hope to have a final design by July, with construction ideally beginning in August, to be wrapped up by the time the snow flies.

“We might have to come back in the spring next year and fine tune the last little bits of it, but we are really hoping to get this done this year,” Theriault said. “And there’s definitely the possibility we could add something to it later, like a statue or another form of public art. We want it to be a really appealing part of downtown.”

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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.