SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — The Planning Board on Tuesday recommended the sale of the South Portland Armory building at 682 Broadway with few land use provisions, setting the stage for the City Council to move forward on Monday with selling the dilapidated city-owned property.
The armory has been empty since its tenant, Fore River Sound Stage, vacated the property in February. City officials have sought buyers for it in hope of revamping the 73-year-old building, which several Planning Board members called “an eyesore.”
Assistant City Manager Jon Jennings on Monday said that there are several developers interested in the property. If the council allows the process to move forward, he said city officials will move quickly to sell the building.
“We’re most interested in, pending approval, getting to a point where we can sell it to someone with the resources who can bring it back to life,” Jennings said.
The city acquired the historic property in 2006 for $650,000, and has never managed to bring it out of decline. Eric Matheson, owner of the soundstage and a Cape Elizabeth resident, has said continuing his lease at the armory wasn’t feasible due to the lack of state incentives for film production. Before Matheson moved in 2011 to the building, it was to become a glass museum.
The Planning Board agreed Tuesday the zone should, for the time being, remain in zone Residential A to protect neighbors, and any development should consider the heavy traffic along Broadway.
Police and fire officials have requested they retain a portion of the lot next to their station for parking.
Planning Board Chair William Laidley noted in the meeting that the cost to the city to raze the building “would be substantial if it ever got to that point.”
“Developers with stars in their eyes and deep pockets may be able to make something of it,” he said.
In its meeting Monday, the City Council will likely set criteria for sale of the property.
Because of new rules approved in April concerning the sale or lease of city-owned property, the council is not bound to select the highest bidder.
City Manager Jim Gailey confirmed Wednesday the council’s established criteria will consider price, facade easement and easement along the rear of the property for a pedestrian connection.
But either way, Planning Board member Caroline Hendry said the building’s sale is inevitable.
“I think something should be done with it now before it gets any worse,” she said.