OLD TOWN, Maine — The Jefferson Street School, built at the turn of the 20th century, is vacant, and the city wants it to be redeveloped into an asset for the community.
The city recently issued a request for proposals but received none, Ron Harriman, Old Town’s economic development director, said Monday. The school remains for sale.
“Nobody came forward,” Harriman said. “There has been some interest expressed by the [Old Town] Housing Authority. That might be a viable option.”
The housing authority wants to change the two-story brick building, which sits on 2.86 acres at 21 Jefferson St., into apartments and low-income elderly housing, but it did not put forth a proposal, the economic development director said.
“There is quite a bit of land around it. It’s close to services and public transportation,” Harriman said. “It’s a beautiful building. It was built like a fort, with brick and granite.”
For the last decade, the building was home to the Southern Penobscot Regional Program, which offered services to students with severe emotional and behavioral difficulties since 1979.
“They decided to close it down and move to Bangor,” Harriman said of the regional program that serves more than 20 school districts.
City leaders also are at the beginning of planning for a new downtown with the removal of the former Old Town Canoe factory and associated buildings. The City Council last week approved issuing a request for proposals to create a downtown master plan.
“It’s a good time to do it with the removal of Old Town Canoe. There are five to six acres in the center of downtown,” Harriman said. “How often does that happen?”
“We’ve got some unique attributes,” he said later about the city. “The river is a great asset, the University [of Maine], the Penobscot Indian Nation, Old Town Canoe. I think it’s a great opportunity.”
Old Town Canoe, which was acquired by Johnson Outdoors in 1974, moved manufacturing from its Middle Street factory to a plant on Gilman Avenue in 2009. The company then sold the downtown site to the city for $1 in 2011. The city was able to receive a grant for $600,000 from EPA Brownfields to clean up the former factory site and paid $147,000 to demolish the buildings.
What will replace the former canoe and kayak manufacturing site is yet to be decided. Public forums are planned to receive input from the community, Harriman said.