May 21, 2019

Seminary campus sold for $1.65M

BANGOR – Bangor Theological Seminary confirmed Monday that it has officially sold the campus it called home for 186 years to a pair of Bangor and Portland developers for $1.65 million.

The new owners, Paul Cook of Bangor and Kenneth Ray, a self-employed Portland businessman, formed Seminary Redevelopment LLC six months ago. They plan to continue to rent residential and commercial space on the campus and to renovate Maine Hall, the oldest building on the campus.

“We’re entertaining all the different options that we have before us. I can honestly say that we have not settled on a plan,” Cook said Monday.

The sale of the 9.25-acre property closed on Friday. The campus, which was donated to the Bangor Theological Seminary in 1819 and now is assessed at $1.69 million, consists of three academic buildings and six residences, including the former home of Hannibal Hamlin, Abraham Lincoln’s first vice president.

Bill Imes, the president of Bangor Theological Seminary, which moved to the campus of Husson College in September 2005, called the sale bittersweet.

“It’s sad to bring an end to the history of the school on that campus. The people who attended have wonderful memories of the school on that spot,” Imes said. “Our concerns are that what’s done [to the campus] should be of benefit to the city and to the neighborhood and continued sensitivity to the history of the particular place. I think they [Seminary Redevelopment LLC] understand that, and I think they’ll be good neighbors and good citizens.”

The school was put on the market in 2005 because it was losing money maintaining its facilities as an increasing number of students were choosing to live off-campus, Imes said. The number of student residents dropped from 100 in 1990 to 24 in 2004. Today 135 students are enrolled in degree programs at Bangor Theological Seminary with another 20 or 30 specialty students, Imes said.

The proceeds of the sale will go toward the school’s endowment, which now totals about $11 million, Imes said.

“This money on our endowment will increase our ability to have a future,” Imes said.

Cook will take over as manager of the campus. He also owns the Antiques Marketplace in downtown Bangor and is a partner in Bangor Property Development LLC, a firm that owns the Exchange Building and the Coe and Stetson blocks of buildings downtown.

The campus now houses a day care, preschool, small catering business and approximately 12 people who rent apartments. There are no plans to ask anyone to leave, and the new owners hope to fill up the 21 apartment units, Cook said.

Seminary Redevelopment LLC is thinking about selling the Hannibal Hamlin house, Cook said. He said he and Ray have received numerous inquiries to purchase portions of the campus, and several nonprofit organizations have expressed interest in renting office space.

“That’s one of the things that has encouraged us to move forward,” Cook said.

Richard Cattelle, a Bangor real estate broker and consultant who was responsible for advertising the campus, said it was a challenge to find a buyer.

“We put out a request to a couple hundred people in the state and in nearby states,” Cattelle said. “A lot of people talked to us about possibilities, but only one materialized into an actual offer.”

Both Imes and Cook expressed appreciation for the help they received from Bangor City Hall in facilitating the sale. In June, city councilors approved the seminary’s request to rezone the six houses from their original governmental and institutional services designation to urban residential II, allowing them to be divided into rental units.

“Usually people say you have to fight city hall. We were helped again and again by every department there,” Imes said.

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