HALLOWELL — Builder Steve Hammond wants to demolish a mixed-use structure at 226 Water St. in Hallowell. But Row House, a nonprofit organization that works to preserve Hallowell’s historic sites, doesn’t think the property qualifies for demolition under the city’s ordinance.

Hammond’s attorney, Walter McKee, presented the plan for demolition to Hallowell’s Planning Board in January, but the group decided to table the debate until information could be gathered from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, something Planning Board Chairwoman Danielle Obery said has not happened yet. Carolyn Manson and Raymond Hicks spoke on behalf of Row House at the meeting and said the building doesn’t need to be torn down.

Hammond, who was traveling out of state this week, referred all questions to McKee, who said the demolition is a win-win for Hallowell.

“If Hallowell is serious about encouraging positive growth and not pushing it away, then allowing this building to be taken down should be an easy decision,” McKee said.

McKee told the board that Hammond has not spent the money to come up with a specific plan for the property, which Row House believes was built in the mid-1850s. According to McKee, Hammond has run into problems in the past committing thousands of dollars to a project before approval.

“This isn’t personal, because he takes very fine care of his properties,” said Manson, a longtime member of Row House Inc., which was founded in 1969. “We hate to be on the opposite side, but we don’t know what he wants to do, and we don’t feel the building meets the standard for demolition under the ordinance.”

According to the city’s ordinance, a building cannot be approved for demolition by the Planning Board unless “the structure is of limited architectural or historic value as part of the visual character of the street on which it is located” or it “presents an immediate hazard and a possibility of harm to the neighborhood.”

Manson thinks the building is not a hazard and believes it is historically significance. She said when the property was built, it was in an industrial neighborhood, and the 1880 census showed a laborer living there with his wife and child.

“The building is representative of a different time in Hallowell’s history,” Manson said. “We feel it is a contributing structure to that district and is part of that whole era where there were a lot of workers down there working on the waterfront.”

McKee said Hammond respects the fact that the property is in a historic district, but he doesn’t see the historical value in the property itself.

“There really is limited historic or architectural value to the building, so the decision should be an easy one,” McKee said. “What will go in its place will be far better and will have a historic look consistent with Hallowell,” though McKee would not say publicly what the plans are for the site.

One person who agrees with McKee and Hammond on the building’s lack of history is Hallowell Mayor Mark Walker. He is a previous tenant of the building and said he doesn’t see any historical significance to it.

“That building had no charm,” Walker said. “I disagree with the (Row House’s) position, and for growth, the property isn’t feasible.”

Mason said the property is in sound condition and isn’t a hazard, but not everyone sees it that way.

There is obvious deterioration inside the structure, and the front door opens with little space separating the door from the street. Walker said it is too close to the road to be a residence, and McKee said he hopes the Planning Board allows Hammond “to take a property that is clearly on its way out and build something that is vastly better.”

“Everyone agrees that Steve has done incredible work on every project he has done in Hallowell,” McKee said. “He goes above and beyond and never disappoints.”

The Planning Board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 at Hallowell City Hall on Winthrop Street. Manson expects to have more to say about the property during the meeting, but she isn’t sure how much more the board wants to hear.

“We just don’t think it meets the criteria,” she said. “To me, the house just needs tender, loving care, just like all historic buildings. It’s a perfectly fine building.”

Jason Pafundi — 621-5663

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Twitter: @jasonpafundiKJ