GARDINER — On his way from City Hall to his fire-damaged building at 235 Water St. on Thursday, Wayne Chamberland paused for a moment.

“I wish the city would have taken it on and rebuilt it,” Chamberland said.

But on Wednesday, the City Council declined his offer of what’s left of his historic building. On Thursday morning, after some deliberation, the city’s Historic Preservation Commission granted Chamberland’s request for a certificate of appropriateness — the documentation needed before a demolition permit can be issued on a building in Gardiner’s downtown historic district.

The commission added the stipulation that demolition will not have an adverse impact on the architectural features of the buildings that remain.

“I’m willing to provide whatever is needed to go ahead,” Chamberland said. “This is going to be hands-on. No one really knows what to do in this situation. Public safety is why I’m doing this. If it sits in limbo, it’s a liability for me and the city.”

The decision brings to a close nearly three months of speculation and investigation into whether the building’s historic facade could be saved.

Chamberland had offered to give the building to the city via a quitclaim deed in August.

Although he has to work out with his contractor the details needed to meet the requirements for a demolition permit — start date, completion date and measures taken to ensure public safety — he said the building will be gone by the end of the year at the latest. When the debris is cleared out, a clean, fenced-off lot will remain.

Although the historic preservation commission’s decision Thursday was unanimous, commission members still tried to work through how to preserve the historic facade in the event someone with resources steps up to develop a building behind the brick front.

“Why would I want to do that?” Chamberland said. “I can see your point, but (the building) is still a liability. I still own it, the taxes are still on my bill. I can’t do everything. If you guys want to save it, you’ll have to come up with some money and a plan.”

Commission member Clare Marron said saving the facade is not going to be feasible.

“There’s no pressure to spend a million or more to build something (there),” she said. “We’d be stuck with a crumbling facade, and what good would that do?”

Other cities, such as Washington, D.C., preserve facades, she said, but the demand for development is greater there than in Gardiner.

Patrick Wright, economic and community development coordinator for Gardiner, said he has been working with Chamberland for months to find ways to keep the building.

“We’ve turned over every rock and explored every angle,” Wright said. ‘I have some potential long-term prospects, but I am not certain enough to recommend keeping the building.”

While the building front still stands with plywood blocking the windows, the rear of the building tells another story. The roof and exterior walls on the upper stories are gone, leaving the inside of the building exposed to wind, rain, and — with winter approaching — the possibility of snow.

A report by Resurgence Engineering to Gardiner Maine Street issued in October warned that what’s left of the building can’t handle a snow load. It estimated the cost of stabilizing the facade at $50,000, and the cost of developing a building behind the facade could be $1.6 million.

Redevelopment of the building site also is complicated by the fact that it’s in the flood plain with Cobbossee Stream just across the back parking lot. Regulations mean building there carries higher construction and insurance costs.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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