Bangor business owners purchase land to offer outdoor classroom for do-it-yourself skills

A vacant lot next to the Central Street Farmhouse has been bought by Zeth and Betsy Lundy, owners of the Farmhouse and plans are under way to use it  to grow an organic garden.
Kevin Bennett | BDN
A vacant lot next to the Central Street Farmhouse has been bought by Zeth and Betsy Lundy, owners of the Farmhouse and plans are under way to use it to grow an organic garden. Buy Photo
By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff
Posted March 27, 2012, at 4:25 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — For the better part of the last 30 years, the lot next to Zeth and Betsy Lundy’s was an unsightly, undeveloped, unused eyesore.

Now, thanks to a deal with the city of Bangor, the 25-by-50-foot property that previously was marked by the shell of a burned-out building will host a garden and an outdoor classroom which the owners and operators of Central Street Farmhouse will use to teach canning, soap-making and other do-it-yourself skills.

“Back when we bought the building [November 2010], they mentioned that we could probably buy the plot next door since the city wasn’t too interested in it,” said Betsy Lundy, a Glenburn native. “We said ‘Oh, maybe someday.’”

Someday has arrived earlier than even the Lundys expected.

“It wasn’t necessarily in our plan to buy that this early, but this seemed like a good time,” Betsy said. “The fact it had been torn apart and was ready to be planted made it more viable.”

City crews tore down the remaining walls from the building and removed the foundation, making it about as shovel-ready as it gets.

The lot isn’t exactly prime real estate. It had drainage issues resulting from much of the burned building’s foundation still being in place and at least four different entities — Time Warner Cable, the Lundys, Bangor Hydro-Electric Company and Northeast Occupational — hold easements on the lot.

“It’s got a large transformer in it, a Bangor Hydro power box, and a variety of easements, so it’s not an ideal property for most people, but it’s perfect for what they want to do with it,” said Bangor City Manager Cathy Conlow. “Plus, it goes back on the tax rolls and we no longer have to maintain it.”

The City Council approved the sale Monday night, selling the Lundys the property at 24 Central St. for $5,000 with a right of first refusal, meaning the city gets first chance to buy it back if the Lundys resell it.

There’s also an aesthetic benefit to the sale.

“We want to use about 25 percent of it for a garden to teach gardening classes and the rest will be a three-season classroom,” said Betsy Lundy.

“These are things we’ve always wanted to do more of, but we never really had the space we thought we’d need.”

The couple, who live on the third floor of the Central Street Farmhouse building with their two young children, plans to install a wrought-iron fence around the lot.

“Hopefully we can start this up in a month or so,” said Zeth Lundy, who grew up in Orono.

The success of their business — which caters to a DIY clientele and features instruction and materials for beer brewing, wine making, cloth diaper use, baby supplies and natural foods — made the purchase feasible.

“I guess maybe you can look at our business as recession-proof because people are still having babies and they’re interested in beer, especially if they can make it better or cheaper at home,” said Zeth Lundy.

Interest in canning, gardening and other DIY skills appears to be enjoying a resurgence.

“It did kind of skip a generation. It seems everyone’s grandparents did it, but nobody’s parents and there’s a bit of a knowledge gap we can fill,” said Betsy Lundy.

http://bangordailynews.com/2012/03/27/business/bangor-business-owners-purchase-land-to-offer-outdoor-classroom-for-do-it-yourself-skills/ printed on September 19, 2014