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March 25, 2014 at 12:00 am

Leveraging Public Entertainment Space

While patrons of the Cumberland County Civic Center and the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor enjoy the comforts and acoustics of these two fine facilities, the amenities are merely a veneer to the heart of the buildings in which people gather. Led by Cianbro Construction, the subcontractors and fabrication companies that employed hundreds of skilled workers have created enduring structures that will create large economic waves in both regions.

In Portland, much of the money expended will never be seen by the public as improvements are in the walls, ceilings and under the floor. The $33 million renovation of the 1977 structure on Spring Street entailed replacing and upgrading HVAC, plumbing, electrical and ice-making mechanicals that are the underpinning of this community resource. That said, one definite highlight for public use is bathroom upgrades including 76 new stalls in the ladies’ rooms; a long overdue improvement.

Another less apparent change are louvered doors separating the widened concourse spaces from the arena. The vastly improved air handling system required the change as without them, it would be nearly impossible to open the doors against the airflow.

Another cost center was the need to comply with both building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Elevators, ramps and reconfigured seating will make this property accessible to all who wish to enjoy the many performing artists, sports events and conventions that choose the Civic Center as their venue.

Another enhancement is the transformation of the single loading dock into multiple bays. This one decision means the time and cost of staging a show will be reduced due to the speed with which stage hands can load in and load out. That alone, officials believe, will make this facility that much more attractive to touring companies that try to control their operating costs.

For North Berwick-based Hussey Seating Company, the project was a big win in keeping this public expenditure within the Maine economy. Newly upholstered seats from the fourth generation manufacturer are both attractive (a warm burgundy) as well as comfortable.

Above the newly named Clark Insurance Entrance at Spring and Center Streets, an attractive open space has been created for concessions and also will serve as the “green” room for featured concert performers. Artists returning to Portland will be very pleasantly surprised by the transformation. The floor in this area is a composite that is non-skid and will wear well during the decades ahead; definitely a feature developers and builders will want to examine.

In Bangor, The Cross Insurance Center replaced the iconic Bangor Auditorium that, for decades, gave thrills to spectators parked in the nosebleed seats particularly during tourney time for high school basketball. The new facility comfortably seats 8,000 for concerts and is attracting a wider variety of world-famous performers. One of the key economic decisions was to include an adjacent convention and meeting facility that accommodates as many as 2,000 patrons.

Beyond the voter-approved $65 million investment, the facility is in close proximity to Hollywood Casino and the ever-evolving public spaces along the scenic Penobscot River. For those unfamiliar with Bangor, it serves as the economic hub for most of Eastern and Northern Maine as well as the Maritime provinces – particularly when the exchange rate between Canada and the U.S. is favorable. Having facilities and events attractive to a wide audience assures that Bangor has many bright and prosperous years in its future.

Bangor residents and policymakers have been intentional in their strategic investments. Permitting the casino, bonding the Cross Insurance Center and supporting the American Folk Festival is reminiscent of the revival of Portland’s Old Port District – lots of excitement, private investment and consumer activity throughout the region.

The bottom line is that both these arenas have and will continue to spur real estate development and business investment as these two cities continue to serve as magnets for tourism and business enterprise.

Josh Fifield also serves on the MEREDA Membership Committee.

Categories: Maine Real Estate Insider