AUGUSTA — The distinctive old Cony flatiron building just can’t seem to attract a new use, or a developer able to secure enough tenants to make things happen at the former school.

Despite months of off-and-on talks between the city and Manchester developer Gary Violette, the two sides have been unable to come to terms on an agreement to come up with a new use for the city-owned, triangular-shaped building on the Cony traffic circle.

“We all had high hopes that Gary could put together a development plan, but at this time it appears he hasn’t been able to secure the necessary tenants he’d need to make that happen,” said City Manager William Bridgeo. “We have discussed, with Gary, that it is probably prudent to go back to the drawing board, on what we should be looking to do there. That may include him coming back with other proposals.”

The historic vacant former high school building was built in 1929 and has been empty since it closed as a school after the 2005-06 school year.

When the old Cony closed, the city sold the 1960s-era building on the site to a developer who tore it down to make way for a Hannaford supermarket. The city retained the flatiron building, and parking around it, with the goal of preserving it.

Violette, the owner of Central Maine Drywall, was the only developer to respond to the latest of the city’s multiple requests for proposals to redevelop the building, which the city issued in January 2011. He proposed a mixed use development including shops, restaurants, office space and condominiums.

It was the third time the city had sought proposals from developers. None of the previous efforts brought forth a development proposal city officials found acceptable for the historic structure.

Bridgeo said Violette said he had a couple of possible major tenants, but they didn’t pan out.

Violette could not immediately be reached for comment late Tuesday afternoon.

Bridgeo said it is time for city councilors to discuss how to proceed with the building. He noted the city’s previous efforts to find a new use for the building did not encourage plans that focused heavily on housing as the main use. Bridgeo speculated that restriction may have limited the number of potential developers.

The city spends about $50,000 a year to minimally heat and maintain the building to prevent it from deteriorating. Bridgeo said the roof will likely need to be replaced in the next couple of years and the boiler has a limited useful life.

“That puts some sense of urgency on moving forward,” Bridgeo said. “I’d prefer the city not incur those costs, if the building is going forward with development.”

City councilors plan to discuss the future of the building at their meeting Thursday, which begins at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

Councilors are also scheduled to discuss:

* mowing esplanades, the grassy areas between some city streets and sidewalks;

* traffic and parking issues on Weston Street;

* rezoning for the proposed new Kennebec County Courthouse;

* an ordinance regulating how utility companies and others can dig up city streets;

* sign ordinance provisions relating to display windows and business directory signs.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

 


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