BANGOR, Maine — Perhaps no other large building in downtown Bangor has inspired so many hypothetical conversations as 73 Central, the long-empty, multistory structure near the corner of Central and Main streets. What could go into that space?
With the exception of a few temporary tenants, the unique brick-and-wood building has remained empty for more than 25 years. Conversations about what to do with it have remained hypothetical, as the building fell into disrepair and former owner David Boyd, a California resident, was chronically late on tax payments and uncommunicative with the city of Bangor.
After one of the tax liens against Boyd matured, the city in June took possession of 73 Central. It remains in the city’s possession until Boyd meets the terms of an agreement approved by the City Council on Monday night.
That agreement requires him to pay his back taxes in full; submit a plan for redevelopment, including financing guarantees and detailed construction plans and timetables; improve the building’s facade; resolve issues with the sprinkler system; remediate mold issues; and renovate the first floor into commercial space. Once those terms are met, the city will hand the keys back to Boyd.
Before his lien matured, Boyd drew up a lease last fall with Bar Harbor resident Jeshua Serdynski and Ragnarok Coffee Society, a proposed roastery and coffeehouse. It is unknown whether Serdynski attained the necessary funding for his business after a failed Kickstarter campaign in November or if the lease remains valid after the change of ownership and ensuing negotiations, though Serdynski has said on his Facebook page he plans to move forward.
Regardless whether Boyd holds up his end of the bargain and regains ownership or the city ends up retaining the title, something almost certainly is going to happen with 73 Central in the coming months and/or years.
On Tuesday, I (Emily Burnham), reporter Nick McCrea and visual journalist Micky Bedell got an informal tour of 73 Central from top to bottom — from a creepy basement to the stunning 360-degree view of downtown Bangor from the roof.
It’s been reported the building has six floors, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. There’s a basement and the ground floor, then there’s a second floor that’s essentially two floors, a little more than half of which is occupied by a mezzanine and balcony that technically could constitute a third floor. Beyond that, there’s a fourth floor and fifth floor, though there’s also an open space beneath the fourth floor but above the third floor that doesn’t appear to be any sort of useable space at all; it’s sort of a half-floor. There’s also an open space in the floor between the fourth and fifth floors, allowing you to look down from the fifth floor onto the fourth.
The story goes that the fourth and fifth floors were added to the building at some point in the 1980s and were supposed to house a fitness center, though it appears work ceased abruptly on the construction, as most of it looks unfinished. The stories of there being an indoor track also appear to be made up — if the fifth floor is supposed to be an indoor track, then it’s an incredibly tiny track that one would have to run around 30 or 40 times to equal a mile.
Truth be told, the building is in extremely rough shape. Most of the walls have no drywall. There’s mold everywhere — there’s actually moss growing on the floor in one of the street-level office spaces. The elevator is broken. Windows are left open to the elements. The floors are bare concrete — and so on. If anyone actually wanted to redevelop the whole building, they’d need a lot of money. Like, a lot of money.
Nevertheless, the bones of the building appear to be extremely strong. The lower floors seem to need less work than the upper floors, and the enormous second floor with the balcony is particularly striking, with big windows overlooking Central Street and a neat bird’s-eye view of the second floor from the mezzanine. The exposed steel beams on the top two floors clearly are made of strong stuff. With the right investor and vision, the potential contained within could be transformative for downtown Bangor.
Big questions remain for the iconic building. What will go in there? The building has, in the past, held everything from Democratic election headquarters to a temporary exhibit by the Bangor Historical Society. Will it be Serdynski’s business? Will it be another restaurant or food-centric business, to add to the now more than 30 different restaurants, cafes and food trucks in downtown? Or will it be retail? An arts space, for which there’s a precedent in the building? A museum? The possibilities are vast.
What do you want to see in 73 Central? What’s your transformative idea for downtown Bangor? There’s room for more than one business or other venture, so take a look at our photos and start dreaming.
Anything is possible. Maybe not probable, sure, but possible — yes.