BUCKSPORT, Maine — The town is willing to put up some cash in order to help revive the former Jed Prouty Inn building and make it an active part of downtown life again.
The Jed Prouty has been a fixture on Main Street since about 1783 and was built originally as a double house by Asa Peabody, who, with his brother Stephen was a prominent merchant in town, according to the town’s website. The building was altered in 1820 when it began a long life as an inn and restaurant.
But the structure has been vacant more often than not during the past two or more decades. It had a brief life, after major renovations, as an assisted living facility, but that operation lasted only a few years, and it has been vacant since the facility closed in the mid-2000s.
Its deteriorating condition has been a concern for town officials. Last January, councilors hired a consultant to find a developer to return the building to an active business in town.
There has been some interest in creating a business in the building, but its condition is proving to be a roadblock for potential developers, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond.
“This building at one time was a focal point in the downtown, and we’ve been trying to find a developer,” Raymond told councilors last week. “There is a concern among developers regarding the repairs that would be necessary in the building.”
The known problems include deteriorating retaining walls, an old furnace, and the very visible front porch that has been sagging noticeably and that the town ordered to be shored up last year. Knowing the full extent of the problems would help the town to apply through the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development for grant funding designed to fix buildings such as the inn, according to Raymond.
He proposed hiring an architect to identify the deficiencies in the building in preparation for applying for the grant funds.
“We know some of the deficiencies,” he said. “We need a consultant to develop a list of the problems and a cost estimate to repair it. We could use that information to obtain the [grant] funding. If we don’t get the grant, it could help us in working with developers.”
Raymond said he had asked two architectural firms to submit proposals, but only one, Lewis and Malm of Bucksport, replied. He recommended using that firm, noting that they were familiar with the building and had worked with the town in the past.
Lewis and Malm, he noted, had done the design work on the Jed Prouty Inn when it was converted into an assisted living facility. The firm also worked on the Gardner Commons project, which converted the former Gardner School into elderly housing units.
Councilors authorized the town to spend up to $5,000 to assess the condition of the building. Those funds, Raymond said, could be used for matching funds in the grant process.
The grant application is due in April.