Tuesday, June 18, 2013
AUGUSTA -- A large pavilion housing an open urban market and restaurant or brew pub, could be the centerpiece of a site that was for more than a century the home of a mill.
The pavilion could be surrounded by walkways and landscaping incorporating an existing old water-filled lock and adjacent to a proposed new passenger train station, office buildings, townhouses and retail shops, all perched alongside the Kennebec River.
That's the concept for redeveloping the former Augusta/Statler Tissue mill site presented by consultants with Eaton Peabody Consulting Group and Port City Architecture to the Augusta City Council Thursday.
And they're proposing a name reflecting the site's future, and connection to the river it abuts, rather than focusing on its past as an industrial mill site.
So, rather than the former Statler, or Hudson, or Augusta, or American, mill site, they propose to call the site The Kennebec Locke at Head Tide.
Consultant John Melrose told said the concept plan isn't meant as a design or blueprint of what would eventually be built, simply as a tool for the city to use to market the property and its potential future uses to developers capable of taking over the property and taking on such a large project.
Councilors praised the concept, presented to them by Melrose and other consultants, saying it gives them hope for the future of the site.
"I think John and his crew have hit a home run with this proposal, especially in a location that, years ago, was an industrial mill that became vacant, was removed, and now became a brown field," said Councilor Darek Grant, chairman of a committee that studied how best to redevelop the east side of Augusta. "This is a community of the future. We have opportunity in Augusta to make this what we want it to be."
The city took the site for nonpayment of taxes in 2009. Since then, a contractor has leveled the former mill buildings on the 18-acre site, which has about a mile of river frontage just north of the city's downtown across the river. The city has since had the site leveled, other than a few foundations or slabs.
Melrose noted such virtual blank slate opportunities are rare.
"The fact this is a city-owned site, on the river, in the core of your community, that's essentially clear... there aren't a lot of opportunities like this in the state," Melrose said. "It's a special opportunity, a chance at a do-over."
A mill site for about 125 years, some remnants of its industrial use remain. While extensive cleanup efforts have already taken place, some soil contaminated with PCBs and other pollutants remains on the site.
Michael Duguay, city development director, said efforts to finish remediation of the polluted spots should be completed by this fall.
The city received a $400,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant, matched by $80,000 in local funding, to remove pollutants from the site. The grant money was also used to hire the consultants to provide the redevelopment plan for the site, which Duguay said was an allowed use of the federal funding.
The plan for the site which stretches nearly to the third bridge includes an open urban market -- consultants suggested councilors think of Quincy Market in Boston for reference -- retail shops, housing and office buildings.
Keith Edwards -- 621-5647