Rockland, Maine Building Reloaded

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photo credit: Spider.Dog

Here is an interesting story about the restoration of a landmark building at 449 Main Street in Rockland, Maine:

About $2 million dollars later, there are no rats left in the basement at 449 Main Street. The shag carpeting was taken out with the 1970s wood-panelling, but most of the old stuff is there in a new way. For instance, some of the 40 doors found in the basement were refurbished and used throughout the space.

Rockwell used Maine’s Historic Preservation Tax Credit to help pay for his project. Without the help of the Maine tax credit, paired with a similar federal tax credit, he might not have revamped the brick building.

Maine’s tax incentives will pay up to 25 percent of the costs of a project. Paired with federal incentives, which will repay 20 percent of costs, that can be 45 cents back per dollar invested.

In the next four years, Rockwell expects to get back 45 cents for every dollar he put into his project — an estimated $900,000.

On Friday, a group of local business people, politicians and historic preservationists gathered to admire Rockwell’s work and to promote the tax credits that made it possible.

In the 1800s, the building was John Bird Grocers. Then it was Rockland Electric and Water Co. In its life, it has been Central Maine Power, government offices and then nothing for decades — just wood and bricks taking up space.

Now, after 2 years and $2 million, the first floor boasts brilliant wood floors, white walls and refinished tin ceilings. Between them is housed a surf wear and casual clothing store, Cutwater Outfitters — Rockwell’s first tenant.

In order to get the state rebate, people must keep the same floor plan. The building doesn’t have to remain an exact replica, however, owners must keep important historic details.

This is great news.  Yet, you have to take pause as to how expensive it is to renovate these buildings. We worry that the preservation tax credits are a band-aid to an underlying problem which is the enactment of one-size-fits-all regulations that encourages new construction over existing buildings.

Regulations should be made to allow for common-sense flexibility for older buildings which would help lower the cost of restoration.  Unfortunately, for every building saved an untold number are torn-down due to the high costs of fixing them up.  In the long run, we are better off reusing than rebuilding.

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