AUGUSTA — The latest developer with a proposal and vision for the Cony flatiron building sees it with businesses on the first floor and a mix of market rate and subsidized residential apartments on the upper floors, requiring an investment between $7 million and $10 million.

In the recent past, other would-be developers of the historic former high school building on Cony circle have seen it as a home for retail stores, a restaurant or office space for a large social service agency.

But those proposals failed to produce results when developers didn’t see enough potential for revenue and backed out.

However, this developer, Housing Initiatives of New England, had success in redeveloping an old building in Augusta once before — old City Hall.

The city’s riverside former hub of government, which also was Augusta’s police station, is now the Inn at City Hall, home to 31 apartments for people who need assistance with daily living. The 116-year-old old City Hall building underwent $5 million in renovations.

Spearheading that conversion was Cynthia Taylor, president of the nonprofit housing developer Housing Initiatives of New England.


Taylor was the only taker in the city’s latest effort to find someone to redevelop the flatiron building, vacant since the high school moved after the 2005-06 school year. This was the fourth time the city has sought developers for the building, which comes with requirements the structure be preserved.

City Manager William Bridgeo said he had a very positive meeting with Taylor recently about her plan. He said she plans to send the city a proposed agreement that would give her corporation a temporary option, potentially 120 days, during which she could complete feasibility work, develop financing and line up subcontractors.

“I am optimistic,” Bridgeo said. “It’s not a done deal by any means. Several things have to be negotiated, such as a purchase price, or lease terms and conditions, but I’m very encouraged.”

Taylor could not be reached for comment.

Her proposal includes buying the building from the city for $25,000 or leasing it for 100 years at $1 a year. Those lease terms would be similar to the terms for the old City Hall, which Housing Initiatives is leasing from the city for $1 a year for 99 years.

Taylor’s plan is to develop commercial space, with some residential, on the first floor, and residential units on the upper floors, while retaining the stage and auditorium, which are in the center of the building.


“Housing Initiatives of New England Corporation has extensive experience in developing historic structures,” Taylor wrote to the city. “This building will be developed with careful consideration of the building’s historic value in the community as well as the physical structure.”

She said the redevelopment would target a different clientele than the Inn at City Hall, and be marketed to people 55 and older who are still active.

She proposes a purchase date of April.

The city, in previous rounds of requests for redevelopment proposals, discouraged residential as the primary use. But after failing to bring in a developer, city officials have said they are now open to allowing a residential project.

Housing Initiatives of New England expressed interest in the building previously, but never submitted a formal proposal, Bridgeo said. He said that previous interest came when housing was still being discouraged.

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 some parking around it, with the goal of preserving it.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

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