Business, hospitality growth highlights for Bath in 2009

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BATH — In a time of economic woes throughout much of the state and country, there’s a strong sense of hope in the City of Ships, at least in the eyes of its manager.

A new downtown hotel, a new business park phase and an award for Bath’s already-celebrated Front Street are a few reasons behind Bill Giroux’s optimism.

He expects the Hampton Inn hotel, part of the Hilton hotel chairn, to be completed early this summer. The 55,000-square-foot building is being constructed on the Prawer Block, which is surrounded by Front, Commercial and Summer streets. Bath’s downtown tax increment financing district has been expanded to encompass this project, and money generated by the district is funding construction of sidewalks around the hotel on Commercial and Front streets.

The second phase of the Wing Farm business park was completed this year and made shovel-ready for businesses. Giroux said it may take about a decade to fill the site.

“We’re going to be choosy about the businesses that go in,” he said. “We want businesses that create good-paying jobs. … We want light manufacturing or office-type uses.”

The first phase of Wing Farm has similar uses and has created about 150 jobs. Phase three, housed in West Bath, is in the works.

One key achievement this year was the American Planning Association’s honoring of Front Street as one of 10 “Great Streets of 2009.” In doing so, the association lauded the “long-standing commitment of city leaders, merchants and residents to protect the street’s historic and maritime character as well as its economic vitality.”

The APA also recognized Front Street’s “unique sense of place, framing views of the Kennebec River and the town’s place-defining trademark, the giant red-and-white Bath Iron Works crane.”

This year saw street, parking and pedestrian improvements to Commercial Street from the train station to the Sagadahoc Bridge, and the city plans further work to proceed north beyond the bridge. The initial phase of the project saw the renovation of the historic train station, which is now also the headquarters of Main Street Bath.

Sidewalk and lightning improvements were also made on Water Street this year.

Bath managed a zero percent tax increase for fiscal 2010, and development of the fiscal 2011 budget is coming in the months ahead.

“It’s safe to say that, given the cuts on the state level, it will once again be a difficult budget,” he said. “It is every year.”

March will mark four years with Giroux as city manager. And he offered a lot of praise for this latest year.

“I think the success story here certainly is the fact that we’re able to add a hotel to all the great things that are already happening on Front Street,” he said. “And in these difficult economic times, our retail downtown is booming. … Also, Bath Iron Works has made themselves so much more efficient, and they’re succeeding, and we’ve got the Wing Farm business park.”

The manager praised the large amount of people in Bath who are committed to the city succeeding, particularly Main Street Bath and the volunteers involved.

“Overall, I’d say we had a great year,” Giroux said. “And I expect we’re going to have another great year.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or

Bath City Manager Bill Giroux, pictured, sees 2009 as a year of success for the City of Ships, and he looks forward to what 2010 might bring.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.