July 13, 2020

Proposal for Freese’s building on panel’s agenda Wednesday

BANGOR — An option agreement on the front part of the Freese’s building could come before the City Council as soon as Monday. It all depends on action by the community and economic development committee, scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Councilors are currently reviewing a proposal by Realty Resources Chartered to redevelop the city-owned portion of the six-story building into one floor of retail space, two floors of offices and three floors of congregate housing — 40 small apartments for senior citizens that would be combined with communal meals and other services.

The residential project would be considered “assisted” housing, intended for elderly who needed more help with day-to-day activities than those who live in the 34 apartments in the back part of the building, also a Realty Resources project.

On Dec. 12, the city’s community and economic development department began seeking proposals for the space, which has been empty for many years. The city previously had a tentative developer agreement with the Northern Conservatory of Music and the Performing Arts, whose officials planned to put the Maine School for the Arts in the building.

The city’s position is that the relationship with the conservatory was severed when one agreement expired, and the council voted Dec. 8 to indefinitely postpone a measure that would have revised it.

Conservatory founder Daryl Rhodes, however, claims the city still has an obligation to continue working with the conservatory. Both he and attorney Fred Costlow have written the city and asked that a previous agreement be honored.

When the city began seeking proposals last month, several people picked up information packets about the building, but only Realty Resources submitted a plan.

The Rockport company’s proposal was “responsive” to the city’s request for proposals, Community and Economic Development Director Rodney McKay said Monday, a term indicating that the submitted plans met the city’s requirements for consideration.

What happens next with the proposal is up to the committee, McKay said, but an option agreement has been prepared in case the committee should decide to forward the matter to the full council.

Over the past couple of years, the city has proceeded with developing the building despite a legal cloud hanging over its title. Former owner Charles Fitzgerald is contesting in Penobscot County Superior Court the city’s taking the structure on a matured tax lien and eminent domain. The matter is scheduled for trial in March.

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