DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — Over the next year, the Friends of Central Hall will be aggressively seeking grants for the rehabilitation of the historic building that served as a focal point for business and entertainment in the community for about 130 years.
Selectmen last week voted unanimously to support the effort by the Friends to save the structure.
Chris Maas, chairman of the Friends of Central Hall, said this week that 252 people have pledged a total of $29,000 and those funds, along with the contribution from the Living Word Ecumenical Food Cupboard, which uses space on the lower level, will cover the costs of the lights, heat and insurance on the building for the year.
At this point, the Friends are continuing their assessment of what work needs to be done, working aggressively on refining their long-term business plan for the building and starting the grant request process, Maas said. The work is being done in cooperation with the food cupboard, the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society and the town.
“It all comes down to our ability to get the grants we need to rehabilitate the building,” Maas said. “We think that we’ve got a real good shot” because most of the grants are for the rehabilitation of historical buildings and because the community supports the project, he said. Maas expects the group will know by spring 2011 whether the project is a go or not based on the grant process.
“Even in its current unfinished state, we have received requests to use the building by various groups and we’re responding actively to those requests,” Maas said. He said the Friends are working cooperatively with Center Theatre which is doing the scheduling and booking for the hall’s use.
Maas said the theater needs a place for rehearsals because the theater is booked virtually every night. It also needs a place to prepare and store scenery. In addition, he said the Piscataquis Regional YMCA is interested in space in the hall because some of its programs have outgrown existing space.
“We think, and it’s certainly confirmed by the other organizations in town like the Y and Center Theatre and the Chamber of Commerce, that there’s a niche and there’s a positive need in this town for an events center,” Maas said. That center would complement those organizations and not replace them.
In addition, Maas said, officials with the Incubator Without Walls have discussed the possibility of leasing space on the ground level of the building. “Wouldn’t it be nice that local Incubators Without Walls had walls?” he said.
Maas said anyone interested in the project is encouraged to contact the Friends or Mary Annis, president of the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society.