A proposal by local developer Michael Mullins to transform the Mary E. Taylor building in Camden into a "makerspace and co-working facility" will be reviewed by the SAD 28 School Board Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House..

Mullins' proposal for the MET building includes mixed-media studios and a fiber arts workspace on the lower level. On the main level, he envisions a welcome center, gallery and library containing volumes specially related to activities at the facility, metalworking and woodworking workspaces. The main level will also contain a junior workspace for "elementary students to learn confidence with tools and working with materials, including right-sized workbenches, tools, and materials." The upper level will offer 4,000 square feet of shared office and presentation space, conference areas, pop-up cafe, and modular assembly space for functions and events, and a 1,500-square-foot laboratory for work with computers, solar, robotics and other electronics.

Mullins is president of Mullins Management Co., a Massachusetts real estate development, management and investment firm, which, he states, operates 901 units of affordable housing, with annual revenues of $11.4 million. Mullins Management and Joseph R. Mullins Inc. have developed projects in Lowell, Mass., under the federal Historic Tax Credit program amounting to 540,000 square feet in total, including Massachusetts mills Phase III, a 70-unit mixed-income renovation of a historic mill building. Mullins owns Cranesport LLC, which operates the former MBNA garage facility on Mount Battie Street in Camden. One of the tenants in the building, DIY Garage, offers memberships to "anyone interested in automobile maintenance and repairs." Mullins also runs a small co-working space in Boston called RealIWork.

The SAD 28 School Board announced in late July that it was willing to review firm proposals to preserve, instead of demolish, the MET building when the new Camden Rockport Middle School is constructed. The announcement was in response to pressure from community members to preserve the building. The deadline for proposals was Nov. 30.

Matt Dailey, chairman of the SAD 28 School Board, confirmed in a Dec. 4 email that the board received one proposal, which was reviewed for completeness by himself, Vice-Chairman Lynda Chilton, Superintendent Maria Libby and Business Manager Cathy Murphy. A list of questions to refer to the board's legal counsel was also prepared, according to Dailey. An example of one such question is whether Maine state law permits the transfer of ownership of the building to Mullins. "Mullins will be notified if he needs to consider making any revisions to the proposal based on the answers we receive," Dailey said. The board hopes to have the questions answered before Mullins presents his proposal Dec. 20.

Purchase and renovation

Mullins is offering to purchase the shell of the MET building for $100,000 and to initially complete repairs estimated at $300,000.

"The plan is to use the building in much of its existing configuration, so as to reduce up-front construction costs. This will be greatly aided by the good condition of most of the finished and structural systems. Further improvements to the building, including renovation, fixtures and equipment will be done on an iterative basis."

Ownership

The proposed ownership of the MET building is called Camden Workplace L3C, which Mullins explains is a low-profit limited liabiity corporation, based on Vermont state laws. Camden Workplace L3C will be a Vermont corporation and also will register in Maine. It will operate according to the Vermont laws that require it to: accomplish one or more charitable or educational purposes; it does not have a signficant purpose of producing income or appreciating property (though both are allowed), and does not exist to accomplish one or more political or legislative purposes. The L3C "low profit" is defined in the proposal as "intended to allow the entity to raise private capital to accomplish its mission, while earning a return that exceeds inflation, and is less than or equal to 7 percent."

Financing

Mullins will contribute $200,000 in capital, and will solicit an additional $250,000 in "at-large member capital." The project will seek $180,000 in historic tax credits and raise $100,000 in debt financing.

Camden Workplace will offer memberships to the public "at a variety of price levels for part-time or full-time access to one or more programmatic offerings, with monthly memberships ranging from $20 to $250."