BREWER, Maine — City leaders have purchased the Archer Block — the rundown yellow building block that greets people as they enter the city from the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge — and already have hired a Veazie company to tear it down.
“We want to create a nice welcome to Brewer” at the site, Tanya Pereira, Brewer economic development deputy director, said Wednesday. “It will be a parking lot and a small park with green space, benches and possibly a masonry wall” that matches the one situated on the other side of Wilson Street.
The city has been working on a plan to improve the Main Street corridor for several years, with one component of that plan being the removal of the old deteriorating building located on the corner of Wilson and North Main streets.
Lou Silver Inc. of Veazie has been hired, for around $61,000, to remove the pre-1900 building, which originally was the Nickerson and Barstow General Store and has housed several businesses over the years. Silver is subcontracting with Northeastern Environmental Services of Pittsfield to remove any hazardous materials before the building is demolished.
“We’re going to take off the thermal system insulation, the boiler pipe — it has asbestos — and the floor tiles are coming out,” Jason Farquhar, NES project superintendent, said Friday.
The mitigation work is expected to being in the next four or five weeks, he said. After completed, the demolition can begin.
Deb Harman, owner of Pretty Woman located next door at 39 North Main St., told the City Council in February that she moved her business to Brewer from Orono two years ago after hearing about the planned downtown improvements and was disappointed that little had been done.
She described the building block as “an eyesore.” She is very happy the building will come down soon, and her customers will have additional parking, she said recently.
The City Council endorsed signing a $116,000 purchase and sale agreement for the Archer Block property two years ago, but the closing was put on hold while Maine Historic Preservation officials reviewed the plans.
The city is using leftover 2005 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds, set aside for Brewer to purchase and develop land along the Penobscot River, to pay for a portion of the cost of purchasing and demolishing the building. The historic preservation review was the last of several requirements to qualify for HUD’s economic development initiative funds.
Historic Preservation officials decided the two-story building was eligible for a historic preservation designation and required the city to document the building before it’s removed, and preserve the documentation for future generations, Pereira has said.
The city has preserved the historic property in photos, both historic and current, she said.
After nearly three years of working on the project, Pereira said she is looking forward to the day when residents and visitors will see an inviting and welcoming city entrance.