Thank you to Augusta’s city staff members who have taken a bold action to stand up (again) to developer Thomas Niemann (“Augusta council action on beleaguered Kennebec Arsenal property delayed again after feisty hearing,” July 29).

There is no doubt the 2007 sale of the Kennebec Arsenal was a mistake. The time has come to right this wrong and reclaim the property. No more excuses, no more accepting boarded-up windows and mowed lawns as signs of development, no more empty promises of luxury apartments, a boutique hotel, retail stores, restaurants and cafes, a park, a wellness center.

Then-Gov. John Baldacci’s March 30, 2007, news release about the sale of the Kennebec Arsenal to Niemann stated, “The Kennebec Arsenal will be a major public and economic benefit, serving as a multi-use facility on the banks of the Kennebec River. Public access to the wharf, trails and waterfront area of the site will be preserved; historic preservation covenants will ensure that the National Historic Landmark will keep its character for future generations; proceeds of the sale will help support the programs of Maine Housing; and the site will be redeveloped and put to active use for the people of Maine.”

None of these predictions ever materialized.

Fifteen years after the arsenal sale, we are now expected to believe that Niemann plans to “in 24 months or less” redevelop five buildings for housing and that he can do this for $1.76 million. Niemann failed to do any development on the arsenal property during prosperous economic times. To ask us to believe he will do it now when we appear to be on the brink of a recession, when construction costs are the highest they have been in 50 years and inflation is exploding is absurd.

Niemann had an opportunity to develop the Kennebec Arsenal and he failed. It is time to cut our losses and move forward with a new plan.

Mary Owen


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