Developers bringing new life to historic downtown Bangor buildings

Posted May 29, 2014, at 7:01 p.m.
Last modified May 30, 2014, at 9:04 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Two developers are giving downtown Bangor’s revival a big boost this summer by working to breathe new life into a pair of long-vacant, historic Broad Street properties.

One of the developers is working on the former Dakin Sporting Goods building at the intersection of Broad Street and Bangor Alley. The site has been largely vacant since the late 1990s, when it briefly housed a coffee shop, cafe and TCBY yogurt shop. Since then, it has occasionally served as temporary headquarters for political campaigns.

Roy Hubbard, a 25-year-old Connecticut native and former University of Maine student, quietly purchased the building from its previous owner, Charles Fitzgerald, in April after a “drawn-out closing,” Hubbard said during a tour of the building on Thursday. Fitzgerald had owned the building since 1986. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

In spite of several rounds of rehabilitation to the building’s facade and an overhaul of its roof more than a decade ago, nothing significant happened in terms of development.

Hubbard estimates that he will spend close to $2 million on renovations to the structure, which is more than a century old. He is working closely with city officials on a tax increment financing agreement and facade rehabilitation grants.

Recently, Hubbard helped Abe and Heather Furth in their renovation of the Main Street building that houses the Verve restaurant. His family has a long background in real estate across the country, including Florida and Tennessee, he said. He grew up assisting family with real estate projects in Connecticut. This is his first major solo development project.

“I have a huge resource of knowledge to fall back on,” he said.

Hubbard considered other, newer properties in the city and taking a “cookie-cutter condo” approach, but “it’s really much more satisfying to save something like this,” he said.

He will rent out the first floor to a retailer, though he has not decided what sort of business he would like to bring in. He thought about a restaurant, but the area around West Market Square might be better served by a shopping venue, he said.

The three floors above will be divided into apartment units — five per floor, a mixture of one-bedroom and some two-bedroom units.

“I’m really designing them for late-20s, early-30s working couples,” he said.

Hubbard and his crew have found some interesting things during the demolition process.

Between the first floor floor and the basement ceiling, they found a wallet that contained a piece of paper with the name and contact information for L. Wilfred MacDonald, 659 S. Main St. in Brewer. His phone number was 2-2153, the five digits indicating it’s been decades since the number was in service. The wallet contained a social security card, birth certificate — birth year 1904 — and more. Hubbard believes it was probably lost or left there sometime in the 1940s or 1950s.

On the top floor is a spiral metal slide that runs down to the lower levels, likely from the days when the building housed Rice & Miller Hardware. Workers would have used it to get materials down to the lower floors — quickly. Hubbard said he tried to figure out a way to incorporporate the slide into the renovations, but could not justify it in the layout, so he decided to tear it down.

Rice & Miller operated in the building until 1950, when Dakin moved his expanding sporting goods store to the site. The company’s name and the names of several employees are still painted on a wall at the top floor of the building in an inscription dated 1890. Hubbard plans on preserving those names.

The upper floors also house a 1903 Otis elevator motor, which he has sold to a man from Atlanta who restores and displays that sort of machinery. He says he could have earned more by selling the motor for scrap, but would rather see it preserved.

Meanwhile, across Broad Street, Telford Allen III is in the midst of a similar project inside a building that hasn’t been open to business since before 2000. His family launched Telford Aviation in 1982, selling the company in 2009.

He purchased the Merchants Bank Building, the iconic curved building overlooking West Market Square, through his company 25-27 Broad St. LLC back in September. The asking price was around $300,000. The developer also expects to close on the property next door, a narrow building adjacent to the pocket park off Broad Street, early next week.

The former bank building, which includes a large vault as a centerpiece on the first floor, was built in 1835 and renovated several times since then. It has been largely vacant since Cormier’s Clothing closed in 1999. Plans for the site are similar to the Dakin building, with “luxury apartments” on the top three floors and some sort of street-level commercial space. The developer said some business and potential tenants have already expressed interest.

The Merchants Bank Building was donated to the Bangor Museum and History Center in 2005 to serve as its new headquarters. The museum invested nearly $3 million in the building, mostly in extensive structural support improvements. But after 5 years, the museum board realized the building needed significantly more work than anticipated.

The developers behind both sites hope to wrap up construction early next year, around the same time the city expects to complete its West Market Square overhaul.

Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter @nmccrea213.