GARDINER — Gazebo construction is underway after nearly a year of an octagonal concrete slab being the only sign of the iconic structure formerly gracing the Gardiner Common.
The contractor has until April 1 next year to complete the bulk of the project, but he said it realistically could be finished by the holiday season.
Meanwhile, fundraising organizers expect to launch their outreach effort next week to solicit donations to pay for the gazebo’s construction.
About $20,000 of the approximately $50,000 needed has been raised so far.
The city designated more than $8,000 from its bicentennial fund for the gazebo, and the Rotary Club of Gardiner has received two grants totaling $11,000. The Rotary Club is heading fundraising efforts.
The city also is soliciting donations through its website, and Gardiner Main Street will be selling gazebo holiday ornaments to benefit the project.
John Shaw, former president of the Rotary Club of Gardiner, said the club is hoping to accomplish most of the fundraising in the next two months. He said it plans to send out letters next week to businesses and individuals, asking for donations.
Anecdotally, he said he’s heard interest from businesses that want to donate $5,000 to the effort, so he’s confident they’ll be able to reach their goal.
“It’s just such a ubiquitous public meeting site in Gardiner, and it’s iconic. We’re really enthusiastic about being able to get that back in the community,” Shaw said.
The city has been planning to replace the old gazebo since city workers tore down the 35-year-old structure last December because of its deteriorated condition.
The former gazebo was completed in 1977 as a replacement for an earlier gazebo taken down in the mid-1950s, according to Kennebec Journal archives.
Since then, it had served as a popular place for prom and graduation photo shoots, weddings, public events and family gatherings. It was one of the most notable features in the city and a welcome marker for those arriving by way of Interstate 295 from the south.
The city even used a gazebo as the central element of a new logo adopted last year.
The builder, Joe Caputo, of Pittston, said he bid on the contract to build it because of the historical significance.
Caputo proposed building the gazebo for no more than $34,750. The overall cost, however, is around $50,000 when security cameras, a donor recognition plaque, cement and contingency funds for unexpected costs are included, according to City Manager Scott Morelli.
Besides the $8,000 from the city’s bicentennial fund, the rest will be raised by donations, Morelli said.
The gazebo’s design is the result of public input and a collaboration between the Parks and Recreation Committee and Brian Kent, a local architect who volunteered his time and expertise to sketch the design.
The new gazebo will resemble the old one. The stairs and opening, however, will be twice as large to accommodate live music and other events. The design also calls for a handicapped-accessible ramp on the opposite side of the steps and a cupola on top to let natural light in.
The City Council and the Parks and Recreation Committee also approved slight modifications suggested by Caputo, including a steeper roof, a larger cupola, different coloring and simplified trim.
Caputo said he isn’t concerned about the structure being damaged by weather if construction has to be suspended until spring because of snowfall.
“Everything is designed and built for winter,” he said. “We’re building it to last a hundred years.”