GUILFORD, Maine — A former Guilford resident and her husband have withdrawn their proposal to build a community center on the former Braeburn block after a local industry shelved its plan to donate two adjacent lots, according to a town official.
Guilford native Jeanine “Jen” Samuel and her husband, David, formerly of San Rafael, Calif., and now of the Carolinas, had planned to incorporate the facade of the historic J.K. Edes building into a multimillion-dollar complex on the combined block and lots as part of a downtown revitalization project.
Guilford Town Manager Tom Goulette expressed his displeasure Wednesday over the fact True Textiles Inc., formerly InterfaceFABRIC Inc., “reneged on its earlier promise” to deed two lots to the town which prompted the couple to drop their development plan.
The town received a registered letter last week from True Textiles Inc. which explained the company had no intention of giving or selling the lot to the town at this time.
“They have just robbed the town of Guilford of a chance of a million-plus dollar community center for free,” Goulette said of the local industry.
In an e-mail to the Bangor Daily News, Kim Thompson, chief financial officer for True Textiles Inc., acknowledged Wednesday that the prior management of InterfaceFABRIC Inc. had expressed a desire several years ago to donate the property for use by the town and its residents.
“Such plans were never approved by the owners or its lenders, both of which were required to transfer title or rights,” she wrote. “Given changes in management, ownership, lenders, and the world economy, recent requests to reconsider the gifting or lease of this property were denied. The management of True Textiles Inc., the successor company, appreciates its relationship with the town of Guilford and regrets that current circumstances preclude such charity,” Thompson explained.
Goulette said he notified the Samuels last week of the change and was told the project will be dropped. Reducing the scope of the project is not a consideration, he said. The entire project was to make the downtown attractive to draw visitors, he said. He said you can’t expect people to be attracted to a building if it’s located next to an unsightly parking lot or whatever might be placed on those lots owned by the textile company in the future.
The town had been told publicly in earlier years that the company would give the two lots to the town for its downtown revitalization efforts, according to Goulette. The property is located across from the textile industry and is adjacent to the Braeburn Block and the Edes property.
Goulette said he has attempted to get the company to follow through with its pledge over the years without success. At one point, he said an official thought the company might be willing to give the town a 99-year-lease on the property, but that fell through. Part of the problem, he said, is the company has since been sold and the personnel dealing with the project has changed.
At the heart of the revitalization effort is the dilapidated Edes building, which survived a fire that destroyed the privately-owned Braeburn block next door in 2003. After the fire, residents authorized town officials to purchase the Braeburn property as part of a downtown revitalization plan. To strengthen the plan, KeyBank donated the Edes building to the town and the textile company offered the donation of the two adjacent lots, Goulette said.
The project was advertised and two proposals were submitted. A proposal by the local historical society, whose members waged a tireless and sometimes contentious campaign to save and restore the Edes building, included the $80,000 purchase of the building and land by Roxanne Quimby, co-founder and former CEO of Burt’s Bees, on behalf of the historical organization. Quimby, whose business once occupied the Edes building, also pledged another $20,000 for the immediate repair and restoration of the building’s interior.
A second proposal from the Samuels, which was accepted by the town, included the payment of $25,000 for the property and an agreement that a significant portion of the profits from the development would be donated to the local SAD 4 schools Jeanine Samuel had attended.
The couple proposed incorporating the facade of the historic Edes structure into environmentally friendly buildings joined on each side by a glassed-in walkway. The Samuels also promised to work with local merchants, residents, and organizations to craft development suitable and desirable to the community.
They had retained San Francisco-based CCS Architecture to design the building on the property and had expected to start construction last spring. The project was delayed however, for the anticipated deed conveyance.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve gone this far down that road and made that many plans including the opportunity of a lifetime that the town is losing,” Goulette said.
Hearing of the latest development Tuesday, selectmen directed Goulette to make the Edes building safe for the winter and to solicit bids for its demolition.