PORTLAND, Maine — The Meg Perry Center is leaving 644 Congress St., where the center has hosted art exhibits, movies and music, political meetings and a “free radical lending library” for six years.
On its Facebook page and in an email, the organization — which describes itself as a center for education and action for peace, justice and community — said it received an “eviction notice” Sept. 13 from the building’s manager, Port Property Management.
Russ Pierce of Port Property said Tuesday that the notice did not represent an eviction, which is typically a demand to vacate a property after a lease has been broken. Instead, he said the center received a 30-day notice to move out so that the owners of the building can make renovations.
William Hessian, a member of the center’s board, said that regardless of the wording, the notice “definitely felt like an eviction,” and the building owners are already considering other tenants for the space after the renovations are complete.
“We weren’t even asked to come back afterward,” he said.
The center has been renting its 960-square-foot space on the building’s first floor on a month-to-month basis for the past couple years but had previously held an annual lease, according to Pierce.
“This is nothing negative against the Meg Perry Center,” he said. “We’ve really had no problems with them.”
The center has had no problems with its landlord either, said board member Kara Oster, although she noted “a lot of us are concerned about gentrification like this in Portland.”
The building owners, whom Pierce declined to identify, are making improvements, including upgrades to utility systems and flooring, in an attempt to “reposition” the building, he said.
In an email to supporters Monday, Oster said, “Though we are sad to leave, we are excited to find a new part of town to share our passionate spirit with, and are working diligently to keep the Meg Perry Center open and alive in Portland’s downtown.”
The board hopes to keep the center on Congress Street and is already exploring a couple locations, including the former site of Mike’s Restaurant at 437 Congress St., according to Oster. The restaurant closed in August after owner Mike Fink said nearby anti-abortion protesters were harassing his customers.
The board is planning to hold a public “visioning discussion” of the center’s future 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25. A crowd-funding campaign to support the center has been started at wepay.com/donations/meg-perry-center.
The center is named after Meg Perry, a Portland activist who died in a 2005 accident while doing Hurricane Katrina relief work.