November 17, 2016
Maine group honors 15 projects for restorations, preservation
Sites where historic significance was protected include St. Andre’s Convent in Biddeford, a Harpswell lighthouse and Thompson’s Point.
By Gillian Graham Staff Writer
Maine Preservation has recognized 15 historic preservation and revitalization projects, including Thompson’s Point in Portland and St. Andre’s Convent in Biddeford, for addressing the state’s affordable housing needs and showing how innovative rehabilitation is being used around the state.
“The people who embark on historic preservation work know that these distinctive, character-rich places not only contribute to our understanding of our history in Maine, they also create investment, opportunity and sustainability,” Susan Burns, president of the Maine Preservation board of trustees, said in a written statement.
Among the projects honored is the transformation of the former St. Andre’s Convent in Biddeford into Mission Hill. The former convent now contains 15 one-bedroom and studio apartments for residents over age 55 who earn no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income. The apartments are part of a multi-phase project to redevelop the entire St. Andre’s complex into residential and community spaces. More than $5 million has been invested in the project to date.
In Portland, the project to transform Thompson’s Point into an energy-efficient entertainment venue and home for entrepreneurs was honored for showing how innovative rehabilitation is succeeding. The 1904 industrial building called Brick North was once used to store steel for Liberty Ships during World War II and now houses a wide range of tenants, including a cafe, winery, distillery, studios, circus training space and the International Cryptozoology Museum.
The Halfway Rock Light Station in Harpswell was chosen for an award because it stands as a reminder of the state’s maritime history and how “dedicated attention, care and conservation can help preserve our heritage,” said Greg Paxton, executive director of Maine Preservation. The beacon was built in 1871 and used until 1975, but then was scheduled for demolition. A group of local residents had it added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. The Presumpscot Foundation acquired the property at auction in 2014 and has now completely restored the structure. An interactive website allows people to explore the history of the lighthouse.
Other winners include Ella R. Hodgkins Intermediate School and the Kennebec Courthouse in Augusta; Somerset Place (formerly Brewer High School) in Brewer; Gray Memorial United Methodist Church in Caribou; Charles E. Moody School at Good Will-Hinckley in Fairfield; George S. Hunt Block (660 Congress St.); the Rosa True building and the Westbrook Seminary Building in Portland; Knox County Courthouse in Rockland; Roosevelt School in South Portland; Edmund E. Goodwin House in Springvale; and Merrill Memorial Library in Yarmouth.
Five award winners this year leveraged Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Since 2008, 70 privately developed projects completed and underway have invested more than $400 million in construction using the tax credits, according to Maine Preservation.
“These projects provide entrepreneurs, artists and residents compelling places to grow their work or live while in restored historically significant landmarks are made available to the public,” Paxton said. “With creative approaches and innovative financing, more historic buildings in Maine can be preserved and utilized to their full potential.”