Former school will become boat storage for a Moosehead Lake marina

BY Laurie Schreiber

Courtesy / The Boulos Co.
Courtesy / The Boulos Co.
Moosehead Marina bought the former Rockwood Elementary School, on Moosehead Lake, to use for heated boat storage and potentially other uses.

The purchase of the former Rockwood Elementary School in the village of Rockwood is expected to help a local marina expand its storage capacity, as well as give a boost to the local economy.
Moosehead Marina LLC bought the 5,000-square-foot former school on 6.71 acres at 16 Education Lane in Rockwood from the state of Maine. Tim Millett of The Boulos Co. brokered the deal, which closed Jan. 23.
Education Lane is off Route 15. The wood frame building, built in 1996, was listed for $199,000. Millett would not disclose the sale price.
Boulos listed it as a potential office, retail or mixed-use opportunity. The one-story schoolhouse has a vestibule, locker area, two classrooms, gymnasium, office space, cafeteria, library, restrooms, utility room, two small outbuildings and a large covered porch and closed in 2010.
“The building sat vacant for quite a while,” said Millett, who represented the seller.
Boulos started marketing the property 18 months ago and received a fair amount of interest from entities like a local snowmobile club and a local contractor, Millett said.
Moosehead Marina owner Mark Gilbert Sr. also reached out to Millett at that time, but the deal was put on hold for a while in order to take care of some issues related to lot lines. When that was resolved, said Millett, he renewed contact with Gilbert, to see if he was still interested.
He was.

Gilbert told Mainebiz he’d originally been looking at raw land for an expansion, then realized he had a good option with the former school, which is two miles from the marina.
“We’re in the school right now, painting and rehabbing,” Gilbert said. “It’s in great shape.”
Gilbert said he plans to use the former gym for heated boat storage. The gym has possibilities for summer use, too, he said. That might include a showroom to display the marina’s product lines, or perhaps to display antique boats.
He's talking with area residents about possible uses for the unused space — such as a gift shop, laundromat, campground, recreational center and ice cream shop.
Gilbert has been in the marina business on Moosehead Lake since 1979, when he opened, with a partner, Beaver Cove Marina in the nearby village of Beaver Cove.
In 1997, he moved to 21 Northern Road in Rockwood, where he grew up and resides today. In 1998 he began construction of a 6,000-square-foot service building, a 15,000-square-foot storage building and a riverside deck, and installed 62 deep water slips and a steep concrete launch ramp. According to the marina’s website, it’s the largest on Moosehead Lake, and the only location in the Moosehead Region offering a full lineup of new and used boats. The marina also has a full service yard and transport services.
Today, Gilbert owns the business with his son, Mark Gilbert Jr.
The region has big tourism draws, like Moosehead Lake and Mount Kineo, but the village of Rockwood has declined  as younger residents move away, Gilbert said.
“What we’re trying do with this school is to open more businesses, bring more younger people back to town,” he said.
Built in 1996, the school closed just 12 years later because of low student enrollment.
Moosehead Marina sells 15 boat lines and services and stores more than 300 boats in the winter, in heated and cold facilities.
“But we need to expand our heated storage,” said Gilbert. The marina and storage space has grown in sync with the number of boats sold, he said.
The acreage around the school will allow the business to expand storage, he said.
Gilbert said he expects to be operational at the new location this summer.

“It’s a busy place to be,” Gilbert Jr. said of the Moosehead Lake region. “If you want to see a place that God created and no one screwed up, you come to Moosehead Lake. It’s true wilderness.”
He said he was delighted by Millett’s help with the transaction.
“Tim’s a rock star,” he said.
The school was still equipped with paraphernalia when they went in, he said.
“The calendars were still 2009, and there were the textbooks and tables and desks, and volleyball stuff and basketballs and all these things that looked as if the students were there yesterday,” he said.
The Gilberts donated everything to the Forest Hills Consolidated School District.
The marina’s storage market is growing, he said.
“We picked up 27 storage boats just last year,” he said. “We’ve doubled our shrink-wrap service. We’re 98% full on our storage now. So the demand for expansion is there.”
The gym has the potential to store 25 boats. A sheltered area on the side of the building can store seven boats. And the land provides further expansion potential, he said.
“We are beyond excited,” said Gilbert Jr. “Every time we walk into that building it’s cooler and cooler to us.”