June 21, 2018
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Future uncertain for two vacant big-box stores in Bangor while others are back in use

By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — The companies that own a pair of former “big-box” stores in Bangor that have been vacant for about five years say they’re working to figure out what will happen to the properties in the future.

The stores, the former Home Depot on Longview Drive and the old Circuit City at 668 Stillwater Ave., are remnants of the U.S. economic collapse of 2008. After that fiscal disaster, national retailers scaled back, closing stores, announcing bankruptcy or shutting down altogether, leaving as many as eight big-box-type stores in Bangor empty at one point.

Only the Home Depot and Circuit City remain unfilled. The companies that own the sites both say they are actively working to either sell the buildings or find a future use for the properties, but will say very little aside from that.

Home Depot left the Longview Drive location in 2008 after building a new facility, which happened to be right behind Circuit City on Stillwater. Since then, the old store has been boarded up.

Meghan King, a spokeswoman for Home Depot, said the corporation wouldn’t disclose details about the status of the building. She did say that Home Depot still owns the property and is looking to sell it.

The Circuit City building is held locally by a realty organization that is commonly owned by Cross Insurance. Alice Dyer, vice president of operations for Cross Insurance, said she couldn’t disclose anything about the status of the building, but that no decision has been made about what will happen to it in the short or long terms.

“We’re keeping our prospects open,” she said, adding that a decision about the future of the location could be made in 2014.

For several years, Spirit Halloween, a Halloween costumes and supplies store, set up shop in the building on a seasonal basis as a short-term tenant. It moved to the Brewer Shopping Center this year.

In early 2009, Circuit City, the second-largest retailer of consumer electronics in the country, announced it would need to close its 567 stores because of the financial crisis.

Despite the fact that both buildings have been empty for years, the city is still bringing in about $170,000 per year in taxes just on those two shells of big-box stores.

These large stores provide a significant revenue stream to the city. The old Home Depot building is valued at $3 million and sits on 13 acres of land that is worth about the same. According to city records, Home Depot pays about $127,000 per year on the vacant building. The former Circuit City, a building assessed at $1.2 million on a 3-acre plot of land, is taxed about $43,000 per year. Both owners are up to date on their tax payments, according to city records.

The other big-box-style stores in Bangor that shuttered around the time of the economic collapse now have new tenants. For example, the former Linens n Things off Stillwater Avenue is now home to Big Lots, Shaw’s on Springer Drive is now Christmas Tree Shops and World Over Imports on Hogan Road is now The Maine Jump.

In the summer of 2011, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders Group announced its liquidation in bankruptcy court. The company operated nearly 400 stores across the country, one of which was in Bangor. In August 2011, just a few weeks later, Books-A-Million announced that it would be taking over 14 Borders stores, including Bangor’s and another in South Portland. At its peak in 2003, Borders had more than 1,200 stores, but the company downsized to fewer than 400 by 2011.

“I think the last few years have really shown some progress in redeveloping some of those big-box stores,” Tanya Emery, director of community and economic development for the city of Bangor, said Tuesday. “We’ve had a number in the Bangor Mall area that have been redeveloped successfully and are now very and productive and healthy pieces of the economy out there.”

She said large buildings can be a challenge to market, because few companies need big-box space. Smaller-scale spaces are being bought up as quickly as they’re being built in the mall area.

“It’s also important from a perception perspective,” Emery said. “If you drive into a community and you see large, vacant buildings, it gives you the impression that the economy’s not that healthy in that community; and so for us it’s also important that we try to get those back into productive reuse as quickly as possible.”

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