This city-owned building at 124 Second St. was formerly home of the Hallowell Fire Department and there are now plans under consideration to house the police station there. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

HALLOWELL — The city’s police department may have a new home in the city’s historic former fire station building, on the corner of Second Street and Perley’s Lane.

Representatives from Artifex Architects & Engineers of Bangor presented their conceptual design for potential reuse of the building during a Monday public hearing. The next step now is for the City Council to decide if it wants to move forward with the project, estimated to cost $3.2 million.

The discussion of relocating the police to this building has been taking place as far back as early 2018 when the City Properties Planning Group unanimously recommended moving the department to the first floor of the former fire station.

The building, completed in 1828, is nearly two centuries old. It served as Hallowell’s Town Hall until 1899 when City Hall was built. The fire department then moved into the building in 1990.

In 2013, the city council signed a resolution stating that maintaining and preserving the historic building is within the city’s best interests, that any future uses of the building are consistent with the its historic value, and that it remains under city care and supervision.

Then, in 2018, E.J Perry installed a new foundation and straightened the tilting building.


The fire department has since moved to Stevens Commons, and the former building now houses the Hallowell Food Bank and is used for city storage.

Ellen Angel, principal in charge at Artifex, led the Monday night presentation and shared the proposal for adaptive reuse of the building, which would include keeping the city’s food pantry, and construction of a sally port. In order to incorporate the new police station, the building would also need to be brought up to code and ADA compliance.

Costs for construction alone — which includes masonry, steel, roofing, siding and insulation for the sally port, replacing windows, applying drywall, and more — are estimated at roughly $2.3 million. The grand total, which includes estimates for general conditions, overhead and profit, design contingency, escalation, bond and insurance, is roughly $3.2 million.

Councilor Diana Scully asked how the cost of the design compared on average, per square foot, to other projects they’ve done.

Angel said that while sometimes it ends up being less expensive to build a brand new building, she thinks this project will be less expensive, as the existing building is in good condition.

“Honestly this building has got some really good bones, for lack of a better word,” she said.


Rob Manns of Manns-Woodward Studios, who did a cost estimate for new construction versus renovation, said that this project was almost 80% of the value of new construction, and that it’s ultimately more cost effective to renovate the former fire station.

Plaques are seen outside the building at 124 Second Street in Hallowell on Tuesday. This city-owned building was formerly home of the fire department. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Hallowell police Chief Scott MacMaster asked what the difference in price would be to just bring the building up to code and current standards compared to doing this in addition to creating a new police station.

Manns said that as a “back of the napkin sketch” estimate it adds about $250,000 and the technological additions add about $100,000.

“The bones of the building are still in pretty decent shape,” said Manns, “but once we start pulling things apart and tinkering with it we get to the point where we have some fundamentals that need to be addressed.”

This includes insulating the building, bringing it up to energy code, and infrastructure work to replace and modernize the mechanical and electrical systems.

“Regardless of the function of the building, you’re looking at replacing those systems anyway,” said Manns.


Mayor George Lapointe asked if there was any consideration of dedicating less space to the police department in the building, as it currently seems as if instead of being a multi-use building, it would be a police station with some additions tacked on.

“It seems like the expansion from 800 square feet to 4,000 is huge,” he said. “It feels like we’re going from an old pickup truck to a Cadillac. Is there a Chevy version of this plan that could be developed? Maybe going from 800 to 2,000 square feet? This seems like a huge expansion for a small police force. I’m not saying we don’t need to do something for the police force, but it just feels big.”

Manns said the current facility, which is in the basement of city hall, does not provide the ADA compliance and requirements that would be needed for a new station. For example, while a toilet room in the current station is 3 feet by 5 feet, that same room would need to be 6-by-8, or nearly double the size, in order to meet ADA compliance.

As a result, he said they’re not able to cut a significant amount of space while still keeping the new facility up to code, adding that downsizing now would eliminate any possibility of future growth and expansion.

Hallowell Code Enforcement Officer Doug Ide said that during prior discussions about the project, there were several conversations about resizing the space, but it was emphasized that the bulk of the costs were primarily structural and mechanical, not the office space itself and its configuration.

“We all had that car in college or high school that was great,” said Angel, responding to Lapointe’s Cadillac analogy, “but we just kept stringing it along with Rust-Oleum and baling wire. So then when we got that first Volkswagen or whatever it was, it seemed like a Cadillac, because we didn’t have to do any of those things.”

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