AUBURN — A Great Falls Plaza bus station and transportation center will get nicer looks and stronger footings, councilors agreed Monday.

Councilors voted to add nicer masonry, walls, vestibules and a more attractive roof on the new garage. Those items had been cut in an attempt to keep costs down.

Councilors also agreed to build more solid footers, allowing the city to build on top of the structure once it’s complete — for either a new parking garage or retail building. The footers added up to $57,500 to the structure’s costs.

Eric Cousens, Auburn’s deputy director of planning, said construction should begin in August.

“We anticipate it will take a few months to complete, but you will see some groundwork there before that,” Cousens said. “We need to put in utilities, and obviously, the footing needs to go in before we can start.”

The city has been working to build a permanent bus station for 10 years. The station would be about 1,500 square feet, with room for a warm seating area, two public restrooms and a break area for drivers.

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Original plans put the center in Great Falls Plaza, alongside a city parking garage.

The garage was never built and the city began looking at a lot near Hannaford supermarket on Spring Street instead. Complications with Spring Street land ownership last summer convinced the city to move the center back to Great Falls Plaza.

Councilors agreed to move back to Great Falls Plaza in December but stopped short of approving designs for the building. Higher-than-expected construction costs had staff asking councilors if they wanted to increase the overall budget or make the center smaller.

The center is being built with a combination of city money and state and federal grants. The Federal Transit Agency has set aside $247,000 and the Maine Department of Transportation has earmarked another $350,000 for the project. Auburn can put in another $150,000 from Tax Increment Finance revenue set aside for downtown economic development.

Overall, the project is expected to cost $746,000.

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