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BANGOR, Maine — No, the old Pilots Grill building isn’t being torn down, but it is getting a new lease on life.
This week, construction crews tore down the former restaurant’s iconic carport, which sheltered diners getting out of their cars on blustery or rainy days for decades, sparking rumors that the whole building would soon be demolished.
In reality, the building’s owners had the carport torn down because it was seriously damaged by snow and ice last winter, according to Ryan Lynch, managing partner at Lynch Realty Group, which owns the property. Now, they’re preparing 1528 Hammond St. for new tenants, one of which has already moved in.
Jacquie Breedlove and Sarah Simpson have started Bangor Area Dance Academy, a studio that holds classes for kids and adults in styles ranging from ballet and tap to contemporary and hip-hop. They signed the lease for the property earlier this month and are settling into their new space. Breedlove said there are about 70 students right now, but the new space leaves plenty of room to expand.
The dance studio is hosting an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25.
Construction will continue into the summer as crews work to improve the appeal of the building’s brick facade, lighting in the parking lot and new landscaping, according to Lynch. He said some 22,000 vehicles drive by the building each day, so updating it could help ensure it remains in use.
The iconic Pilots Grill closed its doors on the last day of 2002, when owner Bill Zoidis decided to retire. The restaurant had been in operation since 1940, when Zoidis’ father, Paul, set up shop on Hammond Street near the airport. The business moved twice because of runway expansions at the airport in 1945 and 1956, according to BDN archives.
In 2004, local businessman Ray Lynch (Ryan Lynch’s father) bought the building with plans to convert it into office space. Prior to that sale, the building was up for consideration as a strip club, but that plan was scrapped after a protest on the steps of city hall and petition drive to prevent it from opening.
Three years after Lynch bought the property, he leased it to Affordable Furniture Showcase, a used furniture store. That shop liquidated about a year and a half ago.
After several attempts to court a new business into the 13,000-square-foot space fell flat, the Lynches decided to divvy the building up into five suites and market to smaller tenants.
Owners are in talks with several other businesses, including a martial arts studio, cafe and health care organizations, about filling other units in the building, Lynch added.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.