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Businesses stunned as owner plans to demolish downtown building

By Stephen Betts | Sep 18, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts An application has been filed with Rockland to make this property a parking lot.

Rockland — The owner of a building at a busy downtown intersection has submitted an application to turn the property into a parking lot.

Tenants in the commercial complex say they were caught completely off guard by the news.

The application was filed Sept. 14 with the Rockland code enforcement office on behalf of 279 Main St. LLC for the property at the southeast intersection of Main Street and Park Drive. A telephone message was left with the building's owner Crystal Darling of South Thomaston. There has been no response.

The building has several tenants including the Park Street Grille, Midcoast Music Academy, Frank's Family Hair Care, Jonathan Frost Gallery & Framing and Breakwater Design and Build Inc.

The application does not offer details other than the owner wants to use the property for a parking lot. The estimated cost of the project is $175,000. The parking lot construction would be completed in late 2021, according to the application.

The proposal is scheduled to go before the Rockland Planning Board Oct. 20.

Park Street Grille has been at the location since 2004. Restaurant owner Jill Goodridge said she, her husband, and their three children have worked at the restaurant for 17 years.

Goodridge said she only learned about the plans Sept. 17 when she called Darling to see if the restaurant could use additional space inside building with the pending departure of the music academy and Frost.

The music academy received approval Aug. 27 from the Rockport Planning Board to move to 821 Commercial St. (Route 1) in Rockport (the Oakland Commons Office Complex). The music academy, however, did not plan to move until mid-November. The academy does not have a lease and also was not notified of the potential demolition.

During that phone conversation, Goodridge said Darling mentioned her plan and if given approval by the Rockland Planning Board Oct. 20, she would have bulldozing of the building begin in November.

The restaurant employs 25 people.

Goodridge said six weeks is not enough time for a restaurant to move.

"Moving a restaurant is a huge undertaking. There is heavy equipment to move, you need to get a new liquor license, there is so much to do," she said.

Goodridge said she hopes Darling will not move ahead with the demolition plan and that maybe someone could buy the complex.

Frank's Family Hair Care has been a tenant since 1996.

Frank Albert of Frank's Family Hair Care said he was unaware of the plans for potentially demolishing the building, and has heard nothing from the owner. He said he does not know where he would go if he has to leave.

Jonathan Frost said he was told three weeks ago he had to move out of the space, but he did not learn about the potential demolition of the building until this week. Frost said he plans to move to a space in the Lincoln Street Center and focus on framing and his own work.

Frost has been there for six years.

A person at Breakwater Design said she had no comment.

Goodridge and Albert said they do not have leases, but Goodridge said she tried for a long time to get a lease.

The 15,000-square-foot building was constructed in 1953. The building was constructed several months after one of Rockland's worst fires destroyed several blocks Dec. 12, 1952.

Tenants mentioned that the building needs a lot of repairs.

279 Main St., LLC has owned the property since 2017. Before that, the late Frank Ferraiolo owned the property since 1995. Before 1995, the building was a Sears store.

Rockland filed a tax lien against 279, LLC which on Monday for about $34,000 in unpaid taxes.

Darling was also president of the Waterfront Group which sold, in July, the property that includes the former Black Pearl restaurant. She attempted to get approval in May 2019 for a restaurant on the property, but the Planning Board rejected it, in part, because the new structure would have been located on a section that has been used as a road for more than 50 years.

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Comments (19)
Posted by: Claire Adams | Sep 20, 2020 20:49

Letting the free market decide what is a reasonable use of someone's private property makes sense to me.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 20, 2020 16:46

Debbie,

Can't buy a building unless it is up for sale. We all have "skin in the game".  This effects all of the tax payers.



Posted by: THOMAS MARSHALL, JR | Sep 20, 2020 13:12

It’s likely a parking lot is just an intermediate step before a next phase of development.  Combined with the old Time Out lot, we could be witnessing a spectacular redevelopment that will raise Rockland to rival anything in Portland.  Buckle up everyone.. big money is on the move and let’s hope it feels comfortable here!



Posted by: Ed and Melissa Boon | Sep 19, 2020 19:05

Should they pay the tax lien before it's torn down?



Posted by: James Bowers | Sep 19, 2020 18:30

Was the building for sale?

 



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Sep 19, 2020 10:05

I think it is a fine place for a solar farm. In fact bulldoze all the way to Rankin Center... just leave Main St as a path between the panels for cars to get through unimpeded. We can sell what power we don't use back to CMP and use the money to fix the roads, sidewalks and infrastructure throughout the city and get rid of the downtown TIF's at the same time that we are reducing climate change.



Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Sep 19, 2020 09:22

A woman always has the prerogative to change her mind.  Let's think about this for a moment.  Look through Rockland's history books and find pictures of the Grand Hotel that sat in this very spot for many years until a spectacular fire destroyed the building and most surrounding in 1952.  Yes that particular spot is one of the most prime spots in the City.  A parking lot ?  most likely just a made up story to piss off town fathers for submarining her earlier plans.  Pretty certain it won't end up as parking unless a parking garage ends up comprising the first floor of a new ocean front Grand Hotel, especially if the "Time out" property were added to the package.  There's lots going on in Rockland that most of us know nothing about.  There are some high stake players with big checkbooks that can see the opportunities that lie just ahead.  People Like Stuart Smith and the Demilios.  You need to look at the bigger picture in the evolution of Rockland, not just the first move in the game.



Posted by: richard krementz | Sep 19, 2020 08:36

Building is ugly and needs extensive renovations. Folks without lease do not have rights extending beyond 30 days. I wonder if all tenants are current on the rent - one I know is behind, maybe others.

 

Eventually something nice will be built there.



Posted by: Deborah Clarisse Morrison | Sep 19, 2020 07:34

A lot of opinions from people with no "skin in the game".  Want to do something about it?  Buy the building from her and do anything you want.  Case closed.  SM



Posted by: James Bowers | Sep 18, 2020 21:31

Is the owner pissed because her restaurant application was turned down? One wonders.



Posted by: Vince Papsidero | Sep 18, 2020 18:05

The last thing Downtown needs is additional parking, especially a private “for pay” lot. There’s an abundance of parking in the downtown. Is this a fully thought out business decision? And this key intersection and gateway to the Downtown doesn’t need a missing tooth (empty property).



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 18, 2020 17:59

Or, the city is giving her some sort of good deal because many want to keep Main Street one lane and need parking.  Oh, the ideas running around everyone heads.  This just plain STINKS!!!!!!



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 18, 2020 17:57

Something is happening like Crawford said.  Why in the world would the landlord be so mean as to give the tenants only 6 weeks to move out?  I am sure that she knows how most of us feel.  But...money talks and can buy anything given a good price.  Which she must be in the works to get.  Just speculating here but sounds fishy to me this whole thing.  Too bad that that landlord can be bought off.



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 18, 2020 17:53

Crawford,

I never thought of the Time Out Pub building for sale.  You sure do have a point!



Posted by: Valerie Wass | Sep 18, 2020 17:14

WE NEED THOSE SMALL BUSINESSES A HECK OF A LOT MORE THAN WE NEED PARKING.  HOW MANY WILL BE OUT OF WORK?  WHY NOT SELL THE BUILDING INSTEAD?  Maybe the city government has some type plan all hashed out with the owner of the building.  That is the only reason I can see why a owner would want to tear down a building that has been there for so so many years and houses many small businesses including the very very popular, Park Street Grille.



Posted by: Ronald Pendleton | Sep 18, 2020 16:22

Wow talk about a crappy landlord with crappy business skills



Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Sep 18, 2020 15:38

I'd venture they will buy Toothout Pub next door to provide extra space for whatever is planned. Nobody rowing with both oars in the water rips down a profitable, tenant filled building to create a non income producing parking lot.



Posted by: George Terrien | Sep 18, 2020 14:57

Well, if we have to lose a building to persuade us of the wisdom to adopt rigorous preservation standards, or at least to impose a substantial demolition delay ordinance to provide opportunity to rally and save a truly historic structure, then this would be not a bad one to lose.  But, loss of building is only part of it.  Losing life along the street and commercial activity in the street front hits hard.

A parking lot?  Really?  For how long?  Should not the Planning Board be presented with whatever might be constructed there in the future, either by smash-and-switch, or under future owners?

We think our Main Street is forever.  Nahhh, it's not.  Let's wake up, now, before it is gone.  Walk Main Street, and imagine how it would feel of the walls on either side were as tall as the old Senters building.  Not a pleasant city anymore, is it?  Rock City and Masiello's next?  Large footprint, and it's only one story tall--could make a fine tall hotel, or could it?



Posted by: Amy Files | Sep 18, 2020 13:07

A parking lot??? If that is the case this is horrible news for downtown and runs counter to all design standards, aesthetics and plans to encourage active sidewalk space ( windows / shops at pedestrian level) and mixed use residential/retail.



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