Second Street Fire Station

Photographed in May 2019, the century-old Second Street Fire Station, at the corner of Second Street and Perley’s Lane in Hallowell. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

HALLOWELL — The search for a new use for the Second Street Fire Station will continue after City Councilors last week rejected a proposed mixed-use development.

City councilors voted unanimously Tuesday to deny the only proposal received for potential development of the vacant building. The decision was made after an hourlong executive session.

The proposal, released to the Kennebec Journal by City Manager Nate Rudy, was sent in by Hallowell resident Eric Perry, owner of E.J. Perry Construction Co. Inc., and his wife, Pamela.

The request for proposals was released in August, calling for development plans for the historic fire station, which was built in 1828 and served as the Town Hall until 1899. The historical character of the Second Street building would likely be protected by covenants.

The Hallowell Fire Department moved out of the old Second Street building and in 2018 began working out of a new fire station on donated land in Stevens Commons on Winthrop Street.

After the vote last week, City Council President George Lapointe said all members of the council were “certain” about rejecting the bid, and there will be a discussion about the use of the building involving the public.

George Lapointe Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Lapointe said the council’s Property Committee recommended rejecting the proposal because it scored poorly on the request for proposal’s evaluation criteria. The proposal was to be evaluated based on community benefit, the applicants’ financial capabilities and the scope of the plan.

Property Committee Chairperson Michael Frett said he could not discuss the evaluation of Perry’s proposal because it was discussed in executive session.

Councilor Maureen AuCoin, also a committee member, echoed Frett’s sentiment, but said she was eager to discuss the project with city residents.

“I look forward to public discussions in determining its best reuse in the coming weeks,” she said. “I’ve been involved in renovations and examining reuse of this building for many years, and am hopeful that we will determine a conclusive plan very soon.”

Eric Perry said Wednesday he did not have strong reaction to his proposal being rejected.

“I was concerned that they weren’t going to get any proposals,” he said. “I didn’t have any great expectations.”

Maureen AuCoin Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file Buy this Photo

Perry’s proposal called for the property to be sold for $10,500. While the building has been appraised at $300,000, Perry said covenants and the significant costs for repairing and optimizing the nearly 200-year-old building brought down his projected sale price.

Perry’s proposal called for complete renovations to the exterior and interior of the building, including the installation elevator to access each floor. Inside, the Hallowell Food Bank would be given a lease to remain in the basement, along with public bathrooms.

The first floor would have been renovated to fit an arts and cultural center, which was floated in January by a consortium of local artists, led by Malley Weber, owner of the downtown Hallowell Clayworks. Weber’s group circulated a proposal this summer, but did not submit a formal proposal.

The second floor would have held a museum space, a conference room and affordable housing apartments.

The public bathrooms and other public facilities would be cleaned up by the city or by Perry’s group, for a fee.

Perry said he formulated the proposal based on what he thought the people of Hallowell wanted for the building. The proposal also mentions renovations will be done alongside the Hallowell Citizen’s Initiative Save the Tower Committee.

Rudy said he was surprised only one proposal was submitted for the building. He said he designed the request for proposals with input from “historic preservation colleagues,” and believed that it could elicit more attention.

“I thought it was a pretty attractive opportunity,” he said.

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