DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — A nonprofit foundation is building a community recreation complex on West Main Street as part of its $10 million plan to revitalize Piscataquis County.
The Libra Foundation plans to transform a former auto dealership into an indoor recreation facility with an attached ice rink, Libra Foundation CEO Craig Denekas said. It bought the dealership for an undisclosed price and began renovations two weeks ago.
The news comes after the foundation in October kicked off efforts to transform Monson, about 15 miles northwest, into an artists colony.
The foundation’s goal in both towns: To turn Piscataquis, which the U.S. Census Bureau rated as Maine’s poorest county in 2015, into a center for tourism, recreation and agriculture.
“Ours has never been a pure Monson play,” Denekas said Friday. “We are trying to improve the area from Milo to Greenville.”
Libra has invested about $175 million in Maine in the last 27 years. Best known as the owner of Pineland Farms Creamery, a nationally known Maine cheesemaker, it was founded by the ex-wife of the co-inventor of the microchip and has $150 million in cash.
The Piscataquis project is its latest effort. Libra bought a dozen properties in Monson ― including a farm and former school ― since October for about $750,000. That work is scheduled to wrap up by early next year.
Libra picked Dover-Foxcroft as the site for the complex, and as an extension of its county revitalization efforts, so that officials at Dover-Foxcroft Academy can manage it, Libra Foundation president Jere Michelson said. The academy is adjacent to the dealership land.
The academy already oversees the town’s youth programs and welcomed Libra’s investment, said Foxcroft Academy head of school Arnold Shorey.
“It was a surprise, but a good surprise,” Shorey said. “There are a lot of details to be worked out, but we’re very excited to be working with them.”
Libra hopes to finish the complex next year. The dealership building, which will feature artificial turf, will be complete early next year, with the ice rink coming online in late 2018.
Libra created the Maine Winter Sports Center and its two Nordic ski venues in Presque Isle and Fort Kent in 1999. The foundation supported that effort for 15 years, contributing nearly $34 million until concluding its financial relationship with the MWSC in 2014.