BREWER, Maine — City Hall officials watched Monday morning as demolition crews began tearing down the old Archer Block — the run-down yellow building block that greets people as they enter the city from the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
As large chunks of the building fell, the group hooted and hollered in awe.
“Everybody is standing out there taking pictures,” said Tanya Pereira, Brewer’s economic development deputy director.
The deteriorating pre-1900 building, which originally was the Nickerson and Barstow General Store and has housed several businesses over the years, had become an eyesore over the last decade, she said.
Removing the structure, which also is known as the Mersinger building, is part of the city’s plan to improve the Main Street corridor connecting the three bridges to Bangor. The building is located at the junction of Wilson and North Main streets.
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.
“I like Brewer’s vision,” she said.
She described the Archer Block as “an eyesore” and said recently she was very happy that the building would be coming down and her customers would have additional parking.
Most of the empty lot will be used for off-street parking and a small park. City councilors will review and select concept designs Tuesday to redevelop the lot’s corner.
One design mirrors the circular brick wall on the opposite side of Wilson Street, in front of the old Rite Aid store, and the other one has a historic interpretive sign that gives the history of the site. Both concept designs, created by Steve Ribble of Context By Design in Bangor, have park benches.
“There is some talk about a hybrid of the two designs,” Pereira said.
Brewer is using leftover 2005 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds, set aside for the city to purchase and develop land along the Penobscot River, to pay for a portion of the cost of purchasing and demolishing the building.
City officials hired Lou Silver Inc. of Veazie to do the demolition work, and Silver subcontracted with Northeastern Environmental Services of Pittsfield to remove any hazardous materials before the demolition work began.
Some of the building’s concrete will be recycled and used as fill for the parking lot, Pereira said, adding that the parking lot and park will not be constructed for several months.
After nearly three years of working on the project, Pereira said she is happy to see the run-down building removed.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” she said. “The plan is to have it [the demolition work] done by Friday.”
Police are asking motorists to take alternate routes to avoid the intersection in front of the building because traffic delays are expected.