Demolition Alert 7: Commercial Buildings in Skowhegan, Maine

Skowhegan, Maine

Skowhegan, Maine

When we started the “Demolition Alert” series only 3 months ago we had thought, or hoped, that it would be a seldom used category. Unfortunately, we are averaging over 2 a month–let’s hope this does not make a trend.

Alas, here we go again with The Portland Press Herald reporting that 3 (not 1, not 2, but 3) commercial buildings will be razed for a park in historic downtown Skowhegan:

The big, old building with plywood on the windows and flaking yellow paint at the corner of Madison Avenue and Commercial Street in the heart of downtown Skowhegan has been sold and will be torn down.

Skowhegan’s “eyesore” will become a grassy park, say officials at the Somerset County Economic Development Corp., which closed on the purchase of the building Sept. 1.

The three-story building, along with two other buildings — one on Madison Avenue and another on Commercial Street that wrap around the building — will become green space, SEDC President Peter Schultz said Thursday.

“The plan is to eliminate all three buildings and turn it into a grassed area until there is another decision made what to with it, but that is down the road.” Schultz said. “The goal was not to create a green space; the goal was to eliminate an eyesore, and it’s a health thing, too — safety. It’s not nice in downtown; it looks like a blighted slum. I think it’s exciting. It’s a good thing.”

We feel that tearing down these buildings and putting in a park is a mistake.  One of the great features of Skowhegan’s historic downtown (Skowhegan’s unique traffic pattern is another) is that the retail front is generally unbroken with buildings of the same general vintage.  These are also a corner buildings which will be even more disruptive to the historic urban feel.

Additionally, the street across from the buildings on Russell street is already dominated by open space, albeit parking lots and a few suburban style one-story buildings. That whole side needs a redevelopment plan with appropriate in-fill–including the occasional pocket park.  This would complete, rather than destroy, the urban wall that already exists in the rest of the historic downtown area.

Of course, to save these buildings will require money–approximately $400,000 according to the article just to save the three-story, corner building. If there is anyone out there looking for a fixer-upper . . . you’d better get there before the wrecking-ball.

Update: The Skowhegan buildings are scheduled for demolition on October 22, 2011.

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