BUCKSPORT, Maine — Town councilors have rejected the idea of the town buying the vacant Jed Prouty building on Main Street — at least for now.
Councilors met in executive session last week to discuss the possibility of purchasing the Jed Prouty as part of an ongoing effort to have the 228-year-old building redeveloped into a functioning Main Street business.
The town has been actively involved in marketing the property and Town Manager Roger Raymond said he raised the issue of purchasing the building as an alternative to the work the town has been doing. Councilors, however, balked at the idea of the town buying the property.
“The council indicated that they would prefer to see the property purchased by a private developer,” Raymond said Thursday.
The Jed Prouty was built in 1783 as a residence in a prominent location on the town’s Main Street. It was altered in 1820 when it began operating as an inn and restaurant. The building served most recently as an assisted living facility, but has been vacant since 2004. The building has deteriorated since then, most noticeably its sagging front porch which the town ordered shored up last year.
Despite the council’s decision not to make an offer to buy the property, the town will continue its involvement in efforts to see the former inn redeveloped. Those efforts could include seeking state grant funds to help a potential developer make the needed repairs to the building. Bucksport’s economic development director, David Milan, has met directly with developers interested in the property, but many have been discouraged by the potential cost of repairs.
Recently, the town paid for an architectural survey of the property to get an estimate of the cost of repairs. According to Raymond, the estimate came in at about $281,000. The bulk of those costs were in repairs to the front porch and a retaining wall, along with the purchase of a new furnace.
The town is looking into a new state grant program, Communities for Maine’s Future, that provides funding to improve buildings in the state’s downtown areas.
Although initial indications were that, in order to qualify for grant funding, the building would have to provide some public benefits — such as housing — Milan said Thursday that state grant administrators indicated at a recent hearing that making repairs to a building such as the Jed Prouty, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, would serve the public good and could be eligible for funding.
The grant program, which is funded through a bond issue approved by voters in November, provides up to $400,000 for approved repairs. The town would have to apply for the grant funds, but could do so on behalf of a committed developer.
“We would have to find a developer who is interested in purchasing the Jed Prouty,” Milan said. “Potentially, we could apply for funding to redevelop the building.”
The grant program has a June deadline for the town to submit a letter of intent.