The Cony Pride building, as seen June 18, 2019, on Cony Street in Augusta. After years of debating what to do with the deteriorating building, city officials appear ready to demolish it. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

AUGUSTA — Cony Pride — the building, not the sense of loyalty to the high school’s Rams — appears to be about to fall to the wrecking ball.

After many years of debate, complaints from its neighbors and consideration of possible new uses for it — all taking place as the small garage-like Cony Pride building on Cony Street continued to deteriorate — city officials appear ready to have it demolished.

Perhaps helping to seal Cony Pride’s likely fate was research conducted by the city’s Historic Preservation Commission which, according to Development Director Matt Nazar, could not confirm that the current building is even the same one constructed as a fire station there around 1870. The commission reviewed the property, as part of the city’s demolition delay process, and determined no delay was necessary and that the building may be demolished.

“One of the things that was significant was the Historic Preservation Commission was unable to confirm whether the building that sits there today is the same building as the one built as a fire station,” Nazar said, noting photographs of the old fire station show a building with a peaked roof, a different set of openings on the first floor, and no brick facing, unlike the current building. “It may well be the same building, and they just took the peaked roof off when they did renovations. It is an older building on the property, but we’re not 100% sure it was the old firehouse.”

City Manager William Bridgeo recommended to councilors Thursday the 111 Cony St. building, which is across the street from the former Cony flatiron building which is now senior housing, be demolished, at a cost of about $30,000. He said neighbors to the site have complained for many years that it had deteriorated into a hazardous eyesore. Bridgeo said the condition of the building is now such that it would not be practical, or at all affordable, to restore or reconstruct it.

The $30,000 in funds would come from a city account reserved for demolishing deteriorated buildings, which Nazar said currently has about $134,000 in it.

The city, according to research for the Historic Preservation Commission, acquired the 25-by-100-foot lot from Llewellyn Lithgow, the founder of Lithgow Library, and Mary Lithgow in 1866 for use as a fire station site, likely as part of a response to a major fire that destroyed most of downtown Augusta in 1865. A fire station known as Atlantic No. 3 was constructed on the site.

The 1930 city annual report noted the station was in need of renovation, which may have been when the building was renovated into its current appearance.

By the mid-1960s it was used by the University of Maine at Augusta. Later, Cony High School, which at the time was across the street, held computer classes in the building. It was later occupied by the Cony boosters, which is when it gained the “Cony Pride” sign on its front. It was most recently used for storage.

In 2019, city officials put out a call for anyone interested in acquiring the building and either tearing it down or renovating it for a new use. It received no responses.

A review of the structural integrity of the vacant building commissioned by the city in 2019 deemed it to be in poor condition and in need of structural stabilizing before it could be put back into use. Stabilizing the 26-foot-wide building, which sits on a roughly 26-foot-wide lot, would cost an estimated $132,000, the city determined that same year.

It is not yet clear what the city would do with the vacant lot, if councilors approve demolition of the building, which they could do as soon as their March 18 meeting.

Councilors and Mayor David Rollins expressed support for the staff proposal to demolish the building.

“Nobody is coming forward to try to save the building, as they have with other properties around town,” Rollins said. “I think it has been more than vetted. So I think we’re safe in making this move.”

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