BANGOR, Maine — For $1.95 million, most of a downtown city block can be yours.
The out-of-state owner of a group of six largely vacant buildings lining Exchange Street has put them up for sale.
The block includes structures on Exchange Street between its intersections with State and York streets. The most prominent building is the former Bangor Hydro Electric Co. headquarters at the corner of State and Exchange street. There’s even a grand ballroom on the top floor of the building at the corner of Exchange and York streets. Technically, it’s all one 53,000-square-foot property, as all the buildings are interconnected.
Tanya Emery, Bangor’s economic development director, called the buildings “an incredible opportunity.”
“It has been largely underutilized for at least a decade,” she said. “It’s a beautiful [property], including many historic and architecturally significant features, and has been quite well preserved.”
The property is owned by an LLC launched by Eaton W. Tarbell Jr. — who is the son of a well-known, bow tie-clad Bangor architect by the same name. Eaton Tarbell Sr. designed about 2,500 buildings during his lengthy career, notably the former Bangor Auditorium, the Vine Street School in Bangor, Bangor High School, Waterville Junior High School and the Maine Center for the Arts at the University of Maine. He died in 1992.
The properties are managed by Keystone Management, a New Hampshire firm that manages properties in Maine, New Hampshire and North Carolina.
The buildings have been largely empty for more than a decade, and there’s a convoluted history behind that. In 2004, Bangor Hydro sold three of the buildings to PROTEA Behavioral Health Services, which was then a rapidly expanding organization that already owned the other properties on the block. Two years later, PROTEA was acquired by Sweetser, the state’s largest private nonprofit mental health organization.
Around the same time, the entire block was purchased by Eaton Tarbell Jr.’s New Hampshire-based LLC, according to Keystone. In 2007, Sweetser shuttered the Bangor branch after it lost a significant chunk of its state funding. Sweetser had only recently entered the 10-year lease on the property, and it continued paying rent, and maintained some office space, but occupied less than 30 percent of the property, according to Keystone.
That lease expired in June, opening the option to redevelop or sell the buildings. The LLC opted to sell. John Bonadio of Maine Commercial Realty is brokering the sale along with Pete Laney of Century 21 Venture Ltd.
The $1.95 million pricetag is a bargain compared to the purchase price a decade ago, Bonadio said. The last time the block sold, it went for more than $5 million — though it was lumped together with a significantly smaller property in Portland.
Combined, the buildings have an assessed value of more than $1.72 million, according to city records. The land they sit on is assessed at $269,100.
Emery posted that the buildings had gone up for sale on social media Thursday afternoon.
Jennifer Simpson, who owns Jennifer Lynn Photography across Exchange Street, said that soon after those posts went up, a steady stream of people in suits started walking the length of the block looking in windows.
The block has a long, rich history. The three-story brick structure on the corner of Exchange and York streets, known as the Nichols Block, dates back to 1892. It was designed by prominent Bangor architect Wilfred E. Mansur. The hall on the top floor housed social functions, concerts and dances. It was one of the few buildings on Exchange Street to survive the Great Fire of 1911, which devastated that section of downtown.
The granite-and-brick building at the other end of the block, the former Bangor Hydro headquarters, was built in 1915 to house a bank. This too was designed by Mansur, who was behind dozens of buildings built in the wake of the fire.
The one-story structure in the middle of the block appears to be relatively new, compared to its taller neighbors, which are about a century old.
For many Bangor residents and visitors, the city’s downtown ends at the Exchange Street block. The origins of that feeling stretch back to the city’s Urban Renewal efforts in the 1960s, when dozens of historic structures and aging commercial spaces and apartments along the rest of Exchange Street were torn down to clear the way for more modern office spaces and parking lots. The block between State and York streets, however, was left standing, as were the buildings on the opposite side of the street.
If new life is brought to the Exchange Street block in the form of shops, restaurants or apartments, the downtown feel could return to Exchange.
“I can actually see this building from my office window, so I’ve gazed at it long enough to wonder who will bring it back to life,” Emery said. “The city is excited to see what comes next.”
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.