By Anne O’Connor
AYER — While it might appear that not much has been happening recently with the Depot Square and commuter parking project, that is not the case.
“Although not visually exciting, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to move the project forward,” said Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand to the selectmen in June.
Preliminary designs and civil engineering are part way done and should be complete by Sept. 1, he said. Everything is on schedule to transfer control of the lot from the state to the town.
Final plans should be done by Dec. 1 and the project will go out to bid in early 2018. Construction should be complete by the end of 2018 for the nearly 200-space lot and Depot Square area where the commuter rail stops.
Although not originally part of the project, the Montachusett Area Regional Transit Authority will take down the building in Depot Square currently occupied by Advocates, said MART Administrator Mohammed Khan.
The building should be empty August 1, Pontbriand said.
The $4 million project includes construction of a lot on Park Street with a deck and improvements for access to the rail stop in Depot Square across Main Street from the parking. It will be funded by $3.2 million Urban Development Grant, $500,000 from the Massachusetts Department of Economic Development and $250,000 each from the town of Ayer and MART.
As part of the project scope, MART will be able to design space in Depot Square for a fountain and gazebo, Kahn said. They will not move them there.
The fountain was once in Depot Square and might be owned by the Berry family who purchased land and buildings in the square from Boston and Maine Railroad in the 1960s, said Director of Community and Economic Development Alan Manoian in a later discussion. It is now near the rotary in a plot of land that might be owned by the town.
The gazebo is in the side yard of the Benjamin Taft house on East Main Street. A plan to build two houses there, approved by the Planning Board, means that two old beech trees and an old gazebo have to go, Manoian said.
He wants that gazebo for the redone Depot Square, but does not know if something can be worked out.
The police are also keeping an eye on the project.
The area where commuters cross Main Street is very congested on weekdays, Lt. Brian Gill said in a phone conversation.
Where the rail trail crosses Groton Street, the planned area for parking access, is also a problem spot, he said. There is no good line of sight for drivers heading to Park Street.
Follow Anne O’Connor on Twitter at @a1oconnor.