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Museum to Break Ground on $3.3 Million Campus Renovation

In its ongoing effort to be one of the best maritime experiences in the world, Maine Maritime Museum will break ground on a transformative 5-acre renovation this week. The “First Impressions” project encompasses a complete redevelopment of the front entrance and south side of the museum’s campus with a goal of enhancing the visitor experience, creating an ecologically friendly and attractive landscape bordering the river and Washington Street, and addressing a lack of handicapped accessibility, crumbling front steps, and deteriorating parking surfaces.

In addition to redesigned parking areas, the south campus of the museum (5 acres) will be transformed into a new landscape that blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings, incorporates native plantings and expansive greenspace, utilizes interactive elements to provide a deeper appreciation of the history and unique ecology of the Kennebec River, and is accessible to all. Unique features of the landscape plan include groves of native Maine tree species that were used in traditional shipbuilding, a beautiful boardwalk along the riverbank providing views of the coastal wetlands, and a special garden honoring Navy families adjacent to the BIW: Building America’s Navy exhibit. New plantings will include 73 native Maine trees, 2,078 native Maine shrubs, and 1,446 native Maine perennials and grasses. The park-like south campus will be open to the public.

“Maine’s maritime heritage is critically important to the state culturally and economically, and deserves the best representation we can provide,” said Executive Director Amy Lent. “This project will have a lasting impact on thousands of visitors and locals for years to come. The new landscape and arrival experience will beautify the south end of Washington Street, celebrate our unique connection to the Kennebec River, and will be accessible to everyone. Finally, the exterior appearance of the museum will reflect the world-class experience found inside.”

The “First Impressions” project is the most recent in a series of ambitious improvements that the museum has completed in the past decade. Installation of the six masts of the Wyoming evocation (2013); construction of the Kenneth D. Kramer Blacksmith Shop (2014); renovation of the state’s largest lobstering exhibit, Lobstering & the Maine Coast (2015); construction of the one-of-a-kind exhibit, Into the Lantern: A Lighthouse Experience (2017); acquisition and restoration of the 1906 schooner Mary E (2017-18); and the opening of the high-tech exhibit BIW: Building America’s Navy (2018); are some of the transformative projects that have earned the museum recognition as a world-class institution, being named one of the top 10 maritime museums in the world (Marine Insight) and the best museum in Maine (USA Today).

Commercial landscape architects Richardson & Associates of Saco created the design; Crooker Construction of Topsham will manage the project working with Pine Tree Engineering.

Phase 1 of the roughly year-long project will commence in early March and focus on the front entrance of the museum. The north parking lot of the museum will be filled to become nearly level with the main entrance, eliminating the need for front steps. Approximately 9,000 yards of fill from the new Morse High School construction site will be reused in the process. A new concrete arrival plaza at the main entrance will include an inlaid map of the Kennebec River. From Moosehead Lake to the mouth of the river at Popham, visitors can walk along the river’s path and trace the history of this remarkable body of water. Boulders will be placed strategically around the Moosehead end of the map, evoking the mountains in that region and serving as seating for visitors.

Assuming the balance of the funding is in place, the entire project will be completed by spring 2020 in time for the Maine Bicentennial celebration when Maine’s maritime heritage can be celebrated as it deserves to be. To date, the museum has raised almost 90% of the project’s $3.3 million fundraising goal.

The museum will remain open throughout the renovation. Information on construction and parking will be updated throughout the project. For the most up-to-date information, visit the First Impressions page.

To learn more about how you can support this exciting project, contact Rebecca Roche, Manager of Development Operations, at roche@maritimeme.org or (207) 443-1316 x327.

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