AUGUSTA — The city is now open to considering private development of housing there at the Cony flatiron building after struggling to preserve it or find a new use since the high school moved out in 2006.

City officials did not outright ban any consideration of at least part of the old school built in 1929 to be developed as housing, but had discouraged that use, both in city bid documents and by a committee that studied reuse.

Three times the city has sought development proposals for the flatiron. All three times — as the triangular building looming over Cony circle can attest — it has failed to draw any proposals resulting in actual development.

Officials hope that could change if development proposals based upon housing are welcomed.

The most recent effort to find a new use for the building was undertaken by Manchester businessman Gary Violette, who looked into a mixed-use development, including shops, restaurants, office space and condominiums.

City Manager William Bridgeo said Violette couldn’t get a major anchor tenant and, despite months of talks between Violette and the city, the chances of his plan panning out appear slim.

“Through the last eight or nine months working with Gary, it has become clear the market idea he had is probably not going to work,” Bridgeo told city councilors Thursday. “The anchor tenant he was anticipating does not now have the financing ability to follow through. There does not appear to be interest in that business model. However, there is a market for market rate housing.

“I respectfully suggest it’s time for the council to reissue a request for proposals, and leave it open-ended regarding housing.”

Councilors agreed, by consensus, though they didn’t take a formal vote. They suggested city staff work on a new request for proposals, including the potential for housing.

“I’m disappointed the other business model hasn’t yielded positive results,” said Councilor Mark O’Brien, who was chairman of the committee that made recommendations. “I think we need to try another tack at this point.”

Bridgeo said the prime consideration remains the preservation of the building. He said councilors could reject any proposals for the building if they wish.

But the building continues to be a financial drain on the city, costing about $50,000 a year for maintenance, primarily the cost of fuel to minimally heat the building to prevent it from being damaged during the winter.

When the old Cony closed, the city sold the newer, 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.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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