BANGOR, Maine — The last large block of downtown buildings left underused since the 1990s is in the hands of a new owner who closed on the purchase of six Exchange Street buildings on Wednesday, officials said.
ANM Properties of Bangor purchased the six buildings as one 53,000-square-foot property. The block of interconnected buildings had a list price of $1.95 million when it went on sale in July, but final sale terms were not disclosed.
Company CEO Adam Moskovitz did not reveal his plans for the properties. He did proclaim in a statement released Wednesday that his organization “saw the sale of these buildings as a unique opportunity to continue the growth of activity in Downtown Bangor, and we’re anxious to help make that happen.”
“Downtown Bangor has a certain buzz to it, and it’s growing,” Moskovitz said. “We live here and work here, so the vibrancy of Downtown Bangor is very apparent to us.”
The block includes a mix of different 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 streets. The block includes a grand ballroom on the top floor of the building at the corner of Exchange and York streets.
Bangor Economic Development Director Tanya Emery said the sale, which had been in the works for months, was part of a lot of development activity downtown. In the last couple of years, that activity has included the luxury apartments and Evenrood’s Restaurant on Broad Street, the renovations underway at 73 Central St. and 20 State St., and the revitalization of buildings at Main and Water streets, which include the Fork & Spoon restaurant.
“We are excited to see the revitalization of downtown continue into a stretch of buildings that has not had a lot of attention,” Emery said.
It’s outside of downtown, but another developer, Pro Realty of Bangor, purchased the former Manna Ministries headquarters at 629 Main St. for $390,000 at auction earlier this month. The company plans to transform the 59-room, 35,000-square-foot structure, which is less than a half-mile from the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, into a moderate-income housing development.
Downtown proponents cheered ANM’s plans. City Councilor Gibran Graham described the purchase as another significant step forward for a downtown that suffered heavily from urban flight decades ago.
“We have seen a lot of interest from people — new people, different people taking a lot of interest in downtown,” said Graham, co-owner of Coespace, a downtown events venue, and manager of Briar Patch, a downtown book and toy store.
The city’s revitalization efforts, the shop local movement, the new Cross Insurance Center, Hollywood Casino and the Waterfront Concerts are among the things that have drawn attention to downtown as a balance with the Bangor Mall and Bangor’s other more suburban shopping and entertainment venues, Graham said.
“There is also an atmosphere in downtown,” Bangor City Council Chairman Sean Faircloth said, “where you have a lot of people who say, ‘I am going to try it.’ There are a lot of these smaller entrepreneurs that in the past you didn’t see as many of in downtown. Some of them don’t make it, but they seem to be continuingly surging in a way that is good for the net effect.”
ANM is likely to do quality work improving the Nichols Block buildings “with businesses and people who will contribute to the ongoing lifting of downtown,” Graham said.
ANM’s website advertises the company’s ownership of 23 apartments and one single-family home in the areas of Chapin Park, State, Forest, Pearl and Spruce streets. The company describes its properties as luxuriously finished, furnished and unfurnished spaces.
ANM’s purchase “has a potential to revitalize what was once one of the most vibrant places in downtown,” Faircloth said.
With nearly all of the city’s major downtown buildings now hosting retail occupants on their ground floors or being renovated, city economic development officials have said they plan to continue revitalization efforts. That includes a redesign of Pickering Square, an upgrade of the city’s bus service, continued waterfront development and efforts to help fill apartment spaces above the ground-floor businesses in downtown buildings.
“We have made major steps forward obviously, but we still have a lot of steps to go,” Faircloth said.
Faircloth said he would like to see Bangor work with municipalities and developers between Waterville and Aroostook County to help reverse northern Maine’s population decline.
“We need to do everything we can to welcome others into this region,” Faircloth said. “If somebody moves to Millinocket or Washington County, they are probably going to come to Bangor to the mall or to downtown to shop or for dinner.”
BDN writer Nick McCrea contributed to this report.