Demolition Alert 19: Old Town Canoe Co. in Old Town, Maine

Picture of Old Town Canoe Co.

Old Town Canoe Co. in Old Town, Maine

The Old Town Canoe Co. mill in Old Town, Maine is threatened with demolition according to the Bangor Daily News:

The historic hub for one of Maine’s most recognizable brands faces an uncertain future, but the legacy of the Old Town Canoe factory thrives in the memories, stories and photographs of former workers and descendents of its founders.

City officials say it’s likely the Middle Street Old Town Canoe factory will be demolished and the site redeveloped, possibly to serve as headquarters for James W. Sewall Co., another business with deep ties to the city . . .

In 2009, Old Town Canoe relocated from the Middle Street factory to a new facility on Gilman Falls Avenue, leaving behind the vacant shell of a downtown landmark. There has been little action at the site since.

The facility’s design hasn’t lent itself well to modern manufacturing industries or office space, so interest in the site was limited, according to David White, the city’s economic development director. The old factory also needs extensive, expensive asbestos and soil contamination remediation work.

The city bought the property for $1 in November 2011 and began weighing its future. Officials considered remodeling the factory to create apartments or repurpose the building for another use, but the town already had new apartment complexes and renovations would have been too costly, according to Town Manager Bill Mayo. Another proposal would have turned the property into a park.

On May 24, Mayo received word that the U.S. Environmental Protection Association awarded Old Town a $600,000 grant that will allow the city to move forward with plans to remove asbestos and other hazardous wastes from the site. Mayo said he expected the cleanup work to start in the fall.

After that, the 260,000 square-foot former factory may be demolished to make way for another century-old Old Town business, James W. Sewall Co.

Unfortunately, too many of our historic mill buildings are meeting this fate. Another problem in this case is the fact that Old Town, Maine is just north of Bangor and the surrounding area is right in the middle of Maine’s Demographic Winter.

Generally speaking, it is the younger folks who would live and/or work in this restored mill. With a shrinking number of young people, the very market for such an expensive restoration is in doubt. Naturally this factors into a developers math and creates substantial headwinds to redevelopment.

Of course, just south of Old Town is the University of Maine’s main campus in Orono . . . lots of young people there 🙂 The key will be getting them to come and live in Old Town and wouldn’t a cool, newly renovated mill be a key ingredient to doing so?


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