AUGUSTA — The lot near the state capitol complex that has been the site of state Department of Transportation operations for so long some of it was built to house horses and bulls is for sale.

The faded green structures at 109 Capitol St. are rapidly being vacated by state workers as they move to renovated and expanded office and garage space in north Augusta at 66 Industrial Drive, off Leighton Road.

The move will leave the 9.2 acre site tucked between the Augusta Plaza on Western Avenue and the state capitol complex vacant and ready for redevelopment.

This week it was listed for sale by CBRE The Boulos Company for $1.65 million.

“It’s a once in a lifetime redevelopment opportunity,” Chris Paszyc, the listing broker and a partner with The Boulos Company said. “We only launched it this week, but we’ve already had a couple of showings. We’re expecting we’ll have multiple offers on the property.”

He said he’s “heard some exciting ideas” from those interested in the property, but could not disclose what they are. He said that the redevelopment could “transform that whole Capitol Street gateway corridor.”

Given the proximity to the State House and state offices, and the age of the buildings on the site, the eight buildings don’t seem likely to be used as they stand now, as a vehicle and equipment repair center.

Transportation officials said they’re moving fleet maintenance operations and consolidating some other state operations to the much more modern north Augusta site because the buildings on Capitol Street are old and inefficient.

The main building on Capitol Street was built in 1920 and meant to accommodate smaller equipment than today’s plow rigs. Part of the building is still known as the bullpen because it used to house the bulls and oxen that pulled heavy rollers used to pack down snow on roads.

Dale Doughty, director of the department’s Bureau of Maintenance and Operations, said a thick concrete header above the garage doors and the height of the interior of the old building are so low workers have to take lights and other items off the tops of plow trucks to get them inside for repairs.

“It’s a substandard work place,” Doughty said of the 1920 building made of a hodge podge of steel, bricks, wood and concrete blocks. “If you live or work somewhere for long enough, I’m sure you do have some sentimentality for a place. But that’s outweighed by, in that building built in 1920, for livestock, trying to repair and maintain, say, modern graders, and dealing with the logistics of taking lights off of equipment every time you take it into the garage.”

Matthew Nazar, development director for the city, said the city and state both hope the site will attract someone who would do “some high-quality new development there that complements the Capitol complex, whether it is an office building or hotel or some other commercial development.”

“It’s not an easy site for redevelopment. It has a great deal of topography and a big gully in the middle of it, so there are some challenges,” he said. “But if real estate is all about location, location, location, it’s a great location.”

Doughty said the property is being sold as is. He said the sale will include no restrictions on its use, beyond the city’s zoning ordinance and the requirements of the Capital Planning District, which overlap and apply to any new construction there.

Doughty said the state is not selling the property with any requirements the new owners keep the buildings on the site.

Paszyc said it’s likely the buildings will be torn down by the new owner and new buildings constructed.

Paszyc said the property is primarily zoned for offices. He said some developers may have plans that could require a zone change to the property.

“Hopefully the city of Augusta will be open to creative reuse of the site,” he said.

Earle Shettleworth, director of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission and chairman of the Capitol Planning Commission, which oversees the Capital Planning District, said the commission reviewed the property and determined the buildings there are neither historically nor architecturally significant.

“The core of the (main) building goes back to 1920, clearly from the period when the state was first making a significant investment in highway-building,” Shettleworth said. “It has been altered and added to significantly over the years. That’s why we would not consider the building, in its present condition, of historic or architectural significance.”

Shettleworth said there is nothing that would prevent the site, if a developer so chooses, to be cleared and developed with new buildings.

As a light industrial site, and the location of truck and equipment maintenance for decades, gas or oil or other materials have likely been spilled at the site over the years.

Doughty said the state has done some specific targeted environmental work on the site when issues were discovered. But he said a full environmental evaluation of the site hasn’t been done. He said if a developer wants that to be completed, that could be part of negotiations, as could who would be responsible, the state or developer, for any cleanup needed.

The property has six underground fuel storage tanks ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 gallons.

Doughty, Paszyc and Nazar all agreed it is rare for a 9-acre site in the middle of the city, and so close to state offices, to become available for development.

Lance Decker, assistant fleet manager who has worked at the site for about 10 years, said while giving a brief tour of the Friday, workers started clearing old items out of the attic of the main building five years ago. He said workers who’ve made the move to the new location have been raving about the new maintenance garage.

Signs painted on the walls of the old place include “Air Raid Shelter,” with an arrow pointing to the lowest floor and, in the attic, “No Spitting on Floor.”

Many workers and most of the heavy equipment have already moved to the new Industrial Drive fleet maintenance site in a formerly vacant 57,000-square-foot warehouse built in 1990 for Allen’s Transfer and Storage, a trucking company. The state bought the site for $1.89 million.

The site is adjacent to a 55-acre Meadow Brook Road property the state bought for $200,000 several years ago. The state, officials said when their proposal went before the Augusta Planning Board, plans to sell some of the land, and keep some of it for potential future development.

Doughty said other state operations which will be consolidated there from other locations include the state’s sign shop, transportation Region 2 Offices now in rented space at Central Maine Commerce Center, and the Office of Information Technology.

He said consolidating those operations will result in more efficient operations.

Doughty said most workers have already moved, and others will move to the new site in October and November. He said the state will be moved out by the end of the year.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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