ROCKLAND — Rockland’s downtown is flourishing as new shops open and developers are investing in properties.

“It has been wonderful to see all the investment in downtown Rockland,” said Rockland Main Street Inc. Executive Director David Gogel. “We are seeing revitalization projects in our historic Main Street buildings, many new and exciting businesses coming to Rockland, and hardscape improvements designed to create a more enjoyable experience downtown.

“All this activity is a direct result of the support our community has shown downtown businesses over the course of the pandemic. Main Street businesses are feeling the love and word is out that Rockland is the place to be if you want to open up a shop in a vibrant neighborhood.”

Three downtown buildings have sold in the past five months, with the latest and largest occurring Friday, April 22, when 500 Main St. changed hands.

The 500 Main St. property was sold by Jeremiah Pasternak to NE2 LLC which consists of Robert Arena and Valerie Landsburg. Arena also owns the commercial building across the street at 497-501 Main St.

Landsburg said she and Arena want to make the North End of Main Street have its own personality and the events center would be part of that.

“We want to have life events, performing arts, music, and community events,” Landsburg said.

The plans include a two-story restaurant on the street side of the building, retail, and a couple of apartments.

The historic building is the former First Baptist Church which was built in 1836 before Rockland was incorporated. The building has undergone numerous renovations and additions over the nearly 200 years, including the brick and steel renovations around 1959. Most recently, Scrimshaw Cannabis leased space in the building.

Arena said he and Landsburg plan to make the building “jaw dropping beautiful.” He said they will be working with Paul Benjamin to bring in acts to the center. He said there was a clock tower on the church long ago which blew over in a storm. He said if the tower still exists, it may be restored and placed on the building.

The process of renovating the building is expected to take two years.

The sale price was $1,090,000, well above the $667,000 property assessment listed by the city.

Two other downtown commercial buildings have sold in the past five months on Main Street, both for well above the assessed value.

In March, 491 Main St., which was owned by Stephen Morrison, sold for $650,000. The city had the property assessed for $603,000. The new owner is 491 Main St. LLC which is based in Ramsey, N.J.

In December 2021, 421 Main St., owned by Lynn Garner and where North Beacon Oyster is located on the street level, sold for $955,000. The city had the property assessed for $555,000. The new owner is Main St. Roost LLC of Phippsburg.

And Caleb Lincoln is proposing the redevelopment of the three upper floors of 404 to 408 Main St. into nine residential units. The plan is for Lincoln to purchase and Loyal Biscuit would lease the street level retail space.

In addition to these investments, new shops are also opening from one end of downtown to the other.

Maine Sports Outfitters

Maine Sport Outfitters will open its Rockland store on May 7 at 279 Main St., the intersection of Main Street and Park Drive.

“We are very excited to be opening a Rockland Maine Sport Outfitter’s store to better service the Rockland community and the folks who live down the peninsulas,” said Stuart Smith. “We are also very appreciative of the welcoming support and encouragement we have received from the Rockland City Hall and the Fire Chief. Rockland is a great community and we are excited to be a partner in its continued success in providing a great place to live, work and enjoy life on the Maine Coast.”

“We couldn’t ask for a better anchor business for the south end of downtown” said Rockland Community Development Director Julie Hashem.

The Smiths — through Park and Main LLC — purchased 279 Main St. in January 2021 for $700,000.

Maine Sport Outfitters is opening May 7 in Rockland. Photo by Stephen Betts

Maine Sport is one of several new businesses that have opened downtown since last summer.

Those include Modern Metalsmith at 497 Main, Botany at 403 Main St., Barefoot in Denim at 434 Main, Arctic Tern Books at 432 Main, Luce Spirits at 474 Main, Ruckus Donuts at 377 Main, Me Lon Togo Bistro at 10 Leland St., Eric Hopkins Gallery at 440 Main, Gallery Two at 399 Main, the Painted Pirate at 369 Main, Adventure Advertising at 33 Park St., and the Tuck and Roll food truck by the middle pier with the other food trucks.

 

The Summer Street side of 500 Main St. Photo by Stephen Betts

Drawings of the former First Baptist Church over the past nearly 200 years. Source: Valerie Landsburg