Musicians play string instruments during the “Old Time Music Jam” at Congress Square Park on July 13. The city says work won’t resume on the Congress Square redesign project until the next construction season. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The disruptions that came with the monthslong construction project at Portland’s Congress Square last summer won’t be back anytime soon.  

The project isn’t done, but construction appears to have been at a standstill since the city and Gordon Contracting reopened High Street to traffic in December. On Friday, a city official said the contractor won’t be returning this year. 

The full project, originally estimated at $7.2 million, had been targeted for completion by 2024, though it’s now unclear what the timeline is and when construction will restart. 

“The City is working to develop solutions to traffic and disruption-related concerns raised by local businesses and the public last year,” city spokesperson Jessica Grondin said in a statement. “What we know is that Gordon Contracting will not be returning to the site this construction season and we look forward to providing local businesses and the public with an update on plans for next year’s construction season.”

Grondin said she was not able to provide additional information Friday about why Gordon Contracting is not returning this season or whether the company will return to the project at all.

Asked for an update on the project and its timeline Friday, Gordon Contracting President Brian Howard said in an email, “It’s in legal and I’m not at liberty to disclose until the paperwork is finalized.”


A large sign at Congress Square Park in July shows plans for the multi-phase redesign project that is again delayed. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

In response to questions about the city’s statement and why his company isn’t coming back to the site this year, Howard said he would provide more information once an agreement with the city is signed.

The project has been hampered by delays and challenges since construction started last spring. In May, crews discovered two underground utility vaults that had to be strengthened to better handle the heavy loads of trucks and construction equipment, leading to several weeks of delays.

Drew Straehle, a project manager for Gordon, told the Press Herald in August 2022 that there was also unexpected ledge underneath the site, unknown prior to construction, that made it difficult for subcontractors to complete wiring and foundation work for street lights.

And there was construction-related damage to underground utility lines at the project site that same month that knocked out phone and internet service for some nearby residents and took several days to repair.

The city and Gordon Contracting have been at odds over who is responsible for the delays and how to respond to them.

Last summer, the city said Gordon did not return to work at the site after the initial utility vault issue, even though there was other work that could have been done.


Gordon Contracting said at the time that the delays were outside of its control and that it was entitled to adjustments in the project deadline and contract price because of the differing site conditions. They said the terms of the project needed to be renegotiated.

An unfinished sidewalk on Free Street in Portland on July 12. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

The city and Gordon reopened Free Street to traffic in late November after the road had been closed since April. A third lane of High Street that had been closed reopened in late December.

Crews at the time appeared to have substantially completed the first sub-phase of the project, which reconfigured the traffic flow at the corner of High and Free streets and eliminated a slip lane in front of the Portland Museum of Art.

The first phase of the project also includes improvements to the traffic flow and sidewalks on the three other corners of the intersection of High and Congress streets, work that was originally expected to be largely completed by fall 2022, with final paving and landscaping to occur in the spring of 2023.

The second phase calls for upgrades to Congress Square Park, including the installation of new artwork, and improvements to the plaza outside the Portland Museum of Art. Officials said when construction started on the first phase that they expected the entire project to be complete by 2024.

City officials said last spring that the cost of the project was $7.2 million, including $2.6 million for the first phase, and would come from city capital improvement funds and the Maine Department of Transportation.

The second phase is expected to cost $4.6 million, from capital improvement funds, Portland Public Art Committee funds and private fundraising by the Congress Square Redesign Committee.

The project also received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Place Grant and National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant.

An update on the cost and whether delays have contributed to any increased costs was not available from the city Friday.

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