August 19, 2010 | last updated December 1, 2011 7:56 am

Former Old Town Canoe building a tough sell

No buyers have made an offer on the former Old Town Canoe building on Main Street, so company and city officials are taking steps to find a new use that will complement the community's long-range economic development plans.

Tim Magoon, director of operations for Johnson Outdoors, the parent company of Old Town Canoe, says the building has been up for sale since spring, but has not received much interest yet.

Maine Commercial Realty has listed the 191,851-square-foot building for $495,000. The building also sits on nearly five acres and is close to the downtown area.

Magoon says the company decided to move to its new warehouse and manufacturing facility on Middle Road eight months ago so it could consolidate its business, including a small manufacturing facility that Johnson Outdoors operated in Washington state. He says 250 people work at Old Town Canoe and the company uses a portion of the old building to store raw materials for making its signature kayaks and canoes.

Magoon says the company recognizes the historical significance of the front part of the old building where Old Town Canoe had previously operated for 110 years. "We would love to see it preserved," he says, but added that the company and the city are willing to take their time to find the right buyer or develop the best plan for its reuse.

Peggy Daigle, Old Town's city manager, says the community may also purchase the property if a prospective buyer does not emerge so the city could take steps to renovate the four-story structure into a recreation center or a museum detailing the city's rich manufacturing past. Daigle says the building has been used to manufacture textiles, shoes, wood products and lumber "and even a few casket companies at one time."

The city hired Ransom Environmental Consultants Inc. of Portland and asked the Maine Department of Environmental Protection to determine what contaminants, if any, would have to be removed. She says some asbestos and some PCBs were identified, but nothing was found that would require a major clean-up.

"It would be a limited brownfields site, if anything," she says. "I don't see it as an impossible site to redevelop."

Daigle says Old Town officials are very interested in revitalizing the downtown district and would prefer to see the former Old Town Canoe building renovated into a new use that would complement the city's vision. If the city did purchase the building, officials would make sure it contained sustainable features so it could serve as a model for future development. "To not do that would be missing an opportunity," she says.


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