HARPSWELL, Maine — A Portland real estate developer outbid the owners of Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Tuesday to purchase the Bailey Island wharf adjacent to the restaurant for $510,000.
Arthur Girard, who in 2015 donated Ram Island in Saco Bay to the University of New England, said he’s not sure what he’ll do with the property, which for decades has operated as a commercial fishing wharf for local lobstermen.
“I have no plans for it,” he said. “That’s how I get inspired.”
Girard, who does business as AMG Holdings in Portland and Miami, Florida, was one of a handful of registered bidders who had provided a $50,000 deposit before Tuesday’s auction, held inside a building on the dock. In the end, only he and Cook’s Lobster owner Nick Charboneau volleyed to win the property.
Auctioneer Michael Carey of Tranzon Auction House in Portland started the bidding at $800,000 but with no takers quickly came down to $500,000 and then $400,000 — and within minutes was asking for a bid to best another at $300,000.
Among the three dozen people seeking shelter from the rain inside amid the lobster tanks, Carey paused the bidding twice, once for nearly 20 minutes, after which Charboneau increased his bid to $400,000.
Girard went to $475,000, and the two volleyed until Girard offered $510,000, at which point Charboneau was done.
The property was assessed at $469,400 in 2015, according to tax records. Charboneau said earlier this month that the wharf would need about $500,000 in renovations.
Girard made headlines in 2014 as the winning bidder in a U.S. Coast Guard sale of the 1855 Boon Island Light Station — at 133 feet in height, considered the tallest lighthouse in New England.
Girard then reportedly resold the lighthouse property off the coast of York to a buyer with more resources to maintain the historic structure. The developer had previously been one of the final two bidders to acquire another lighthouse, the 1905 Ram Island Ledge Light, before reportedly losing a coin toss to a Windham neurosurgeon for the rights to the property.
In 2015, Girard’s family donated the 1-acre Ram Island in Saco Bay to the University of New England for use as a marine sciences center.
Following the auction, Nick and Jennifer Charboneau seemed stunned. The couple said earlier this month they would bid for the wharf, hoping to keep the property a working waterfront resource for local lobstermen.
“As long as they do the work and maintain the wharf and make it a safer place and take care of the people who work there,” Nick Charboneau said about the future of the wharf under Girard’s ownership.
“Either way, we’re protected,” Jennifer Charboneau said, referring to easements they hold with the restaurant property.
Among those gathered Tuesday was Norman “Curt” Parent, the current owner of the wharf and previous owner of the restaurant, which the Charboneaus bought out of bankruptcy at auction in 2015.
Parent, who lives nearby on Garrison’s Cove, chatted with Girard during the bidding and said following the auction that he hopes Girard maintains the working wharf “for Harpswell’s sons and daughters.”
“These fishermen need access to the shore, and [on Bailey Island] they only have here and Mackerel Cove,” he said. “They deserve the right to be able to get to the shore.”
“It’s a two-month season for recreational boaters, but a nine-month season for wage-earning, local fishermen,” Parent continued. “To make it somebody’s dream marine is, in my eyes, a travesty.”