Newly formed group makes offer on Rockland arts center

Posted May 10, 2012, at 6:36 p.m.
A &quotfor sale" sign was posted Wednesday outside the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education in Rockland.
Stephen Betts | BDN
A "for sale" sign was posted Wednesday outside the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education in Rockland. Buy Photo

ROCKLAND, Maine — A group that has formed to try to save the Lincoln Street Center for Arts and Education made a formal offer Thursday to buy the building.

The group known as Old School was given its nonprofit corporation status by the state on Thursday, according to organizer Joseph Steinberger. As soon as its status was certified, the nonprofit group met with the real estate agent handling the sale of the building and offered $250,000.

On Wednesday, Steinberger had expressed dismay that the for-sale sign had gone up without anyone notifying the group that had been working all week to come up with a plan to save the building and its operations.

The chairwoman of the board of the Lincoln Street Center said putting the building up for sale should in no way be interpreted as a sign of a lack of cooperation with the new group that is forming.

“Everybody is very excited about the efforts of the Old School,” Elizabeth May, who is chairwoman of the Lincoln Street Center board, said Thursday.

May said the asking price for the Lincoln Street Center property is $329,000 but the price is negotiable. The Lincoln Street Center organization bought the structure for $61,000 in April 2002.

The Lincoln Street Center board announced two weeks ago that it was dissolving its nonprofit organization and closing the center as of June 30 because of lack of money to operate the 144-year-old building.

Steinberger said the initial goal of Old School is to raise enough money by next week to pay off about $60,000 in bills owed by the Lincoln Street Center to allow the center organization to dissolve and the new group to pursue the acquisition.

Steinberger has scheduled a public meeting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the Lincoln Street Center for interested people to gather and come up with ideas for preserving the Old School. He said he wants to have pledges of $60,000 raised by that meeting.

Steinberger had said Wednesday that he was frustrated and angry when he learned about the for-sale sign going up.

“Now, with the sign up, it will be impossible to keep the tenants in the building and it becomes an order of magnitude more difficult to succeed in saving the center,” Steinberger stated in an email to the board that he also sent to the Bangor Daily News.

But he and the other two board members — Kyle Swan and Ron Tesler — of the Old School moved quickly to make the offer.

May said Thursday she had penned a letter to Steinberger on Wednesday evening explaining that the board had no choice but to put the building up for sale because it has to show good faith to its creditors that the debts will be repaid. She also said the Lincoln Street Center organization cannot legally transfer the mortgage it has with Camden National Bank to the Old School organization.

The outstanding mortgage is about $180,000, she said.

May said Old School will need to buy the building and obtain a mortgage.

The Watershed School is the largest tenant for the building. About 50 artists also rent spaces in the structure.

Steinberger said a person who works on boilers inspected the boiler at the school and found it to be in good condition even though it was installed in 1983. He said the main problem with the heating system is broken valves on radiators, an inexpensive and easy problem to fix.

The Old School organizer said roof work may need to be done at an estimated cost of $40,000.

Steinberger said people interested in the project can reach him at 596-0731, by email at steinberger@gwi.net, or by mail at P.O. Box 7, Rockland 04841.

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