May 31, 2012

Neighbors hear renovation plan for civic center

The architect says work could start in August if the $33 million arena project wins the city's approval.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — No one raised objections Wednesday night as about 20 people turned out for the first neighborhood meeting on the $33 million plan to renovate the Cumberland County Civic Center. Architects said the construction could begin as soon as August.

Representatives came from several neighboring businesses and institutions, including the Brian Boru pub, the Renys department store, the Maine College of Art and the Portland Museum of Art.

Most came for a presentation by the project's architectural design team, WBRC Architects-Engineering of Portland.

Neal Pratt, chairman of the civic center's trustees, said he wasn't surprised by the lack of questions.

"We have consistently engaged a number of groups in the community to make sure we did this the politically smart way," he said.

If the city approves the civic center's site plan, construction on the renovation could begin as soon as August. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 2013.

Mike Johanning, WBRC's project architect, said the civic center filed a site plan application with the city on May 11.

The project will be reviewed during a Planning Board workshop on Tuesday before it goes to a public hearing and final Planning Board vote on July 10.

Pratt said the plan calls for shutting the facility down for about three or four months in the summer of 2013 to give the contractor, Cianbro, the opportunity it needs to complete the project.

Johanning said the renovation plan includes new street-level entrances. All of the sidewalks around the civic center on Spring, Free and Center streets will be replaced. The streets will be repaved toward the end of the project.

A new loading dock will be installed on Free Street.

Other improvements include a renovation of the visitors' locker room, new bathrooms throughout the civic center, refurbished seatin, and new glazed windows -- a feature that will let passers-by look into the arena.

"We are going to lighten things up with more glass and less concrete," Johanning said.

New wall paneling, featuring work by local artists, will adorn the Spring Street side of the civic center.

During construction, Center Street, between Free and Spring streets, will be closed to allow for some demolition.

The street will remain closed for about eight to 10 weeks.

Pratt said the trustees are still considering installing 250 luxury "Sky Club" seats.

Those premium-priced seats, about 8 feet from the ceiling, would give spectators a bird's-eye view of the arena.

Pratt said the cost for the seating -- estimated at $2.5 million -- would need to be justified.

"I think it's a terrific idea, but my question has been, will this market purchase those seats," he said.

The trustees have hired a Dallas-based consulting firm to examine the issue in more detail.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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