The $1.29 million Pickering Square gentrification grant


Bangor has been awarded $1.29 million in federal funds to help it replace the public bus terminal that was removed from the first floor of the Pickering Square parking garage as part of an ongoing renovation.

Now that the city has been awarded those funds, it has to decide on the location of the replacement terminal and exactly what it will look like, according to Assistant City Manager Rich Cromwell.

“All of us were very, very grateful to be able to receive this funding, especially since we are out of necessity needing to plan for a new transit hub or facility,” Cromwell said of the grant, which the city applied for in June.

The award was announced by the office of Sen. Susan Collins.

“Necessity” is an overstatement. It’s been a desire of Bangor’s elite to overhaul Pickering Square for years now. The usual rationale is something along the lines of making the square “more attractive,” but then there’s this story in which they let slip which part of it they don’t find attractive…

Councilor Ben Sprague, who spoke at the end of the meeting said, “I don’t think Pickering Square is a paradise,” before adding that one of the reasons city leaders are looking at revamping the area is “a lot of people do feel intimidated” there.

(Sprague once complained about meeting a beggar on Broad Street, but I can’t find that link at the moment.)

“We talk about the unwanted element in Pickering Square. Most of the people who [hang out in the area] are homeless youth,” [councilor Gibran] Graham said. “Just trying to move them is not going to fix the situation. We can’t tell them where to go. They are going to congregate wherever they want.”

(Good thing for Graham that the city is practicing telling the homeless where to go.)

Councilor Cary Weston said the city needs to stop talking about the problem and should take some action.

“Five or six years ago we had the same exact conversation,” Weston said.

“It’s six years now and we haven’t moved an inch,” he added later.

They’ve been floating various ideas for Pickering Square over the years, trying to find the one that does the least damage to the bus system (none of them want to come out against mass transit, they’d be politically excommunicated) and has a certain amount of plausible deniability in re: class warfare. At one point (I can’t find this link right now, either) they were faced with the possibility of having to repay about half of the federal money they got to put the bus depot there in the first place; since then, they’ve been more careful.

But it’s OK now, I guess, because the parking garage’s entrance is moving and they had to redo the rest of the square to compensate. Or so they’ll keep saying, anyway. And never mind how much of a “necessity” it was to move the parking garage’s entrance in the first place, or whose idea it might have been.

And it’s also OK that the federal taxpayer is footing the bill for this one, or at least that’s what they’ll try to imply as subtly as possible while hoping we forget that Bangor residents pay federal taxes. And while we’re forgetting things, never mind the $6 million bond for changing the color of City Hall’s wood paneling, the city totally needed to go cap in hand to Susan Collins for a new bus shelter.

Meanwhile, I’m just relieved that the “temporary facilities for riders of the Community Connector” may not be permanent, because they aren’t much. And hope springs eternal that once they rearrange the street trees and implement whatever unpleasant-design features they think will repel undesirables, they’ll forget their current strategy of locking the public restrooms every Saturday plus random other days “because of drug use” or “vandalism,” although that ploy predates the renovation by several years, so that hope is probably in vain.

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