If Camden National Bank’s acquisition of The Bank of Maine closes in October as expected, the city of Gardiner will lose a downtown tenant and a longtime supporter of the community.

Losing that support was a concern for a lot of people in Gardiner when the banks announced plans for the sale in March, said City Manager Scott Morelli. The bank, formed in 1834 as Gardiner Savings Institution, gave $1 million for the construction of the city’s Waterfront Park and, more recently, pledged $125,000 toward a downtown business incentives program that brought two established businesses to the city.

“There’s no question The Bank of Maine with its roots in Gardiner has been very supportive of our community for decades,” Morelli said.

But despite the initial concern, he said he’s optimistic after meeting with the leaders of the banks after the announcement.

The two leaders of the banks also say they expect the support of the city and community groups to continue after the merger.

“I anticipate keeping that relationship going and pairing with city officials there,” said Gregory Dufour, president and CEO of Camden National Bank. “As I tell people, we can only be as successful as an organization if our communities are successful and our customers are successful.”

The $135 million deal, if approved by federal regulators and shareholders, will create the largest locally owned bank in Maine. It will also lead to four Camden National Bank branches consolidating into existing The Bank of Maine branches, including two in Augusta and the Camden National Bank branch in downtown Gardiner.

In Augusta, where the two banks have three branches each, Camden National Bank would close its branches on 127 Community Drive and 38 Bangor St. and move. The bank would also close its Kennebunk branch at Lafayette Center and move into a The Bank of Maine branch less than a mile away.

In Gardiner, The Bank of Maine also owns around a half dozen parking lots near the downtown and a row of empty storefronts across Water Street from the Gardiner Public Library.

John Everets, president and CEO of The Bank of Maine, said the bank has explored possible uses for the row of mostly unused downtown storefronts and will continue to do so in the future. Camden National Bank would also continue to work with the city to market the properties, Dufour said.

The Bank of Maine is also in the process of opening its parking lots to the public on weekends, holidays and during evenings, Morelli said.

As for the Camden National Bank branch at the corner of Church and Water streets, Dufour said he anticipates the bank would look to sell it at some point in the future.

The potential for that building to open up is an exciting prospect, said Patrick Wright, executive director of Gardiner Main Street. The building has high visibility, parking and is in good condition, he said. Wright, also the economic and community development coordinator for the city, said his downtown organization and the city would work with the bank to find a reuse for the building if the bank vacates it.

Wright said the fact that the banks met with the city within two weeks of announcing the merger gives him hope that Camden National Bank would continue to be a community partner with the city.

But not everyone in the city is as optimistic about the merger.

Steve Marson, board member of the Gardiner Board of Trade and owner of the River Road Variety in South Gardiner, said he thinks the city will end up losing a lot of support if the bank sale goes through.

He said he doesn’t expect the larger Camden National Bank to provide the same support to Gardiner, such as the donations to the Waterfront Park project and the downtown business incentives program.

“I don’t foresee those types of monetary commitments being done by Camden National Bank like The Bank of Maine did,” Marson said. “I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen anything that will lead you to believe that Camden National is going to be a big role player taking over for The Bank of Maine in Gardiner.”

The downtown incentives program, Grow with Gardiner, is a collaboration between The Bank of Maine, the Gardiner Board of Trade, Gardiner Main Street and the city. On top of the $125,000 the bank pledged to the program, the board of trade gave $50,000 for incentives.

So far, the program has led to Frosty’s Donuts and Emery’s Meat & Produce opening storefronts in Gardiner. A third business has also been approved for a forgivable loan and grant through the program to open a retail business in the former location of Founding Farmers Community Market on Water Street, but Wright has declined to name the business.

There is still about $50,000 left of the initial $125,000 commitment from the bank, according to Wright.

Dufour said he couldn’t say whether the bank would continue funding the program in the future, but he said the bank cares about the economic development of all of its communities.

“The Bank of Maine has been very supportive with Gardiner,” Dufour said, “and we hope to continue all of those projects or find new ways to partner with the city.”

Paul Koenig — 621-5663

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Twitter: @pdkoenig