May 21, 2018
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Fate of Rockland’s Lincoln Street Center in limbo

By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff

ROCKLAND, Maine — In two months, the ownership of the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Entertainment, one of the most historic buildings in Rockland, will be in a state of flux.

The Watershed School, more than 50 artists, and the Rockland Alumni Heritage room all are looking for alternative spaces once the center shuts down June 30.

The center’s board of directors announced last week that it would close the center’s doors in June, citing the high costs of maintaining the building, which was built shortly after the Civil War.

The Lincoln Street Center formed as a nonprofit organization in 1998 and leased the building from the city for three years before purchasing it in 2002 for $61,000.

The Lincoln Street Center took out a mortgage of $147,000 from Camden National Bank in January 2004. According to its 2010 income tax return, the Lincoln Street Center had outstanding secured debts of $188,657.

A message was left Monday morning with Camden National about what would be done with the building after June 30. No return call was received by Monday afternoon.

In 2010, the Lincoln Street Center had expenses of $154,670 and revenues of $153,535. The center’s overall fund balance at the end of 2010 was a negative $69,520.

City Manager James Smith said the City Council has not held a meeting since the announcement was made last week by the Lincoln Street Center board and therefore there have been no discussions on any direction the city could take concerning the building.

With the closure of the center set for June 30, tenants are looking for alternative spaces.

One tenant is the Rockland high school alumni association, which houses memorabilia in the building.

Lincoln Street Center board member Ben Perry of Thomaston has overseen the heritage room since it opened in 2004. Perry, who graduated from Rockland High School in 1954, said the room contains a considerable amount of memorabilia from the 144 years of history of both Rockland High School and then Rockland District High School.

There are uniforms from athletic teams, yearbooks from all but four of the years in which they were published, trophies, banners and other items, including a megaphone.

Perry said he does not know where the items will be relocated but that the alumni association is not able to afford paying rent.

He said two classes already have scheduled tours of the room as part of their reunions this summer.

The largest tenant is the Watershed School which leases a large section of the first floor for its 26 students. The school is looking for a new home for the start of the 2012-2013 school year. The school has said it is confident it will have a new home well before the start of the school year in September.

But the fate of the center has been on the line for a long time. One of the members of the first board of directors of the Lincoln Street Center said it has been a struggle since the organization started.

“It’s been a Herculean task to keep it going,” said board member John Bird of Spruce Head.

The center has special meaning for Bird, who graduated from the building in the 1950s when it was known as Rockland High School. He said despite generous support from donors and efforts to find ways to pay for needed repairs, the task proved too daunting.

The three-story brick building encompasses 45,000 square feet with a heating system that dates to before the first Arab oil embargo, when oil was cheap, he said. The heating system has only one zone for the entire building with a furnace that is about 25 years old.

There are about 180 windows in the building and many were replaced in the 1970s but not with thermal windows. They have opaque glass, which he said may have been installed to keep students from daydreaming by looking out. But the windows are inefficient and prevent people from having views of the outside.

About 15 windows were replaced a few years ago through a grant but the cost to replace the remaining ones would have been substantial. He estimated $1,200 to $1,500 per window which would mean a cost of at least $120,000 just to replace 100 windows.

The flat roof on the building is also in need of work. He said there are leaks in the roof membrane which if not repaired will lead to water damage.

Some needed landscape work also has gone undone because of the shortage of money, he said.

The building was built in 1868 with two wings added and renovations made from 1923 through 1925. The building became the junior high for Rockland, Owls Head and South Thomaston in 1963 when RDHS opened. The city acquired the building in 1996 after SAD 5 closed Rockland District Middle School in 1995.

The school contains a 300-seat auditorium and a gymnasium.

Back in the late 1990s, when the city owned the building, the Lincoln Street Center had worked with developer Joseph Cloutier in an effort to have it converted partially to elderly housing units and the remainder for the arts and education center. Cloutier was not able to acquire financing for the Rockland project.

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