BAR HARBOR — The infrastructure of Cottage Street needs some work, a group of residents and business owners say, to attract visitors and businesses to the area. At a budget meeting last week, the Town Council moved to designate $25,000 in cruise ship funds for a streetscape design study to recommend improvements. The study would give the group a better idea of the cost of the project.
“The town invested in Main Street, and now it has attractive lighting, underground wiring, brick surfaces, and seating,” Basil Eleftheriou told a meeting at the American Legion hall last week. He is a member of the Planning Board and owns the Thirsty Whale Tavern with his wife, Heather Sorokin.
“We really want to improve Cottage Street so it’s on the same level. As it is now, you can’t even see a trash receptacle,” he said. The goal is to “go through Cottage Street soup to nuts and improve everything.” Priorities would include lighting, wiring and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“As the years go by, we have been having more and more empty buildings and brown spaces,” Sorokin said. “If we continue on this path, one of our main corridors will look shabby and like the town can’t support itself. But if we do something, hopefully people will want to invest.”
Mike Rogers of LARK studio presented a virtual walk-through of Cottage Street to illustrate visitors’ walking patterns.
Coming from Main Street, he said, the first blocks on Cottage Street are obviously a commercial district. But when people get to the post office, they can’t see the stores and restaurants further down, and they usually turn around.
The group hopes a planned renovation of the George Edwin Kirk American Legion Post 25 building will help tie Cottage Street together and make it more attractive.
“It’s in the very middle of Cottage Street,” Rogers said. “It can pull people down from Main Street and hopefully help everybody.”
The plan is for the building to continue to house the legion’s meetings and museum but also provide office space for rent and transitional housing for veterans or others in need of it.
Following structural and utility upgrades, the building will be the site of a Designer Showhouse Project, sponsored by the Swan Agency realty and “Maine Home and Design” magazine.
Eleftheriou has brought the streetscaping proposal to the Planning Board and Town Council in the last few months, and also met with Public Works Director Chip Reeves. Councilors were supportive of the concept, saying these improvements may be more urgent than some other pending park improvements. Town Manager Cornell Knight suggested using cruise ship funds for the study. The cruise ship committee agreed. Reeves said it would be best to time the work to coincide with water and other infrastructure improvements that are planned for after the Route 3 reconstruction is complete.
“We have water lines that are from 1912,” Eleftheriou said.
Passenger fees collected by the town from visiting cruise ships are required to be used for projects related to the visitor experience.