Wrapped in a long blue feather boa, a small concrete gargoyle perches on a windowsill, leering out the window at the traffic passing through the intersection on the Brewer side of the Joshua Chamberlain Bridge.
Call it a harbinger of a new era for the old Leen Electric building on Wilson Street. The two-story brick building was recently purchased by Susan McGinley, who is known in the local arts community for her theater production and costume design skills.
“We are trying to restore the building to its original condition,” McGinley explained, pointing to its potential as both a theater and a dance studio.
The building, which fronts the Penobscot River and abuts the Chamberlain bridge, was built in 1929 and was most recently occupied by the now defunct Mountain Springs Water Treatment Co.
McGinley’s work crew has been gutting the interior of the building, exposing the worn hardwood floors, the painted brick walls and the massive floor joists. The building has approximately 4,000 square feet of floor space on each of its two floors.
Records at Brewer City Hall show that the property was sold in 1989 for $195,000. McGinley, who has entered into an installment sale contract with the owner, Jay Smith, said that the purchase price for the property approached $200,000.
“We are trying to open the space up as much as possible,” said Mark LeClair, an independent contractor who is heading up McGinley’s work crew. LeClair touted the building’s potential “flexibility.”
In addition to the productions of her own company, Theater Productions Unlimited of Maine, McGinley explained that she will look for “nonprofits” and “professional production companies” to rent the space for their use.
Theater Productions Unlimited was recently incorporated and is backed financially by McGinley. Assessor’s records in Eddington show McGinley recently sold significant acreage in the Hatcase Pond area to the Brewer Water District.
“Every bit of good theater brings about a larger market,” McGinley claimed, explaining her approach to gaining a local market for her proposed productions, which tentatively include the full range of entertainment, from comedy to musicals to children’s shows.
When opened, McGinley’s theater will represent one of only two professional theater facilities in the area.
“It’s a tough market,” noted Mark Torres, director of Bangor’s professional Penobscot Theatre Company. “However, the return is favorable when we put a quality product on the stage.”
Torres echoed McGinley’s analysis of the local arts market, noting that “if it’s a good product, it stimulates the market.”
“I think she’s a visionary,” said John Supranovich, one of the many local notables listed as “friends” of the proposed theater in promotional materials being distributed. “She’s as connected to the theater community, in the East Coast anyway, as anyone I know.”
Supranovich said he first met McGinley when she produced the musical “Nunsense” for St. Joseph Hospital back in 1992.
With family in Bangor, McGinley returned to the area in 1986, ending her academic and professional theater career in the Boston area.