Ideas sought for McLain reuse

By Stephen Betts | Mar 05, 2019
Source: File photo The McLain School is at the intersection of Lincoln and Summer streets in Rockland.

Rockland — Rockland plans to solicit concepts from developers on possible uses for the McLain School.

The city expects to take ownership of the three-story brick building in the fall, once Regional School Unit 13 relocates its administrative offices to South School.

A volunteer committee that has been studying the issue since April 2018 gave the City Council an update at the council's Monday evening, March 4, meeting.

Committee member Kathy Lane said there are exciting opportunities for the future use of McLain School, but that there are also significant challenges.

The existing building could be converted into 22 to 25 units of housing, Lane said, or more if an addition were made to the building.

The large foyer on each of the three main floors makes it more challenging to do a conversion while maintaining the historic nature of the interior, she said. There is also a basement in the building built in 1894.

The school building is not suitable for high-end residential condominium units, she said, because there are no water views from there.

The building, however, is eligible for state and federal tax credits of up to 45 percent combined, according to committee member and former longtime Rockland Community Development Director Rodney Lynch. The building is in a historic residential district and is close to the downtown, he said.

Councilor Valli Geiger said the cost to convert the property into housing -- perhaps senior housing -- is estimated at $10 million to $12 million. She said that costs for building materials are very high now, as is labor, because of a shortage of workers.

Geiger said while she hopes the property can be turned into housing, the requests for concepts on reuse should include all options.

Lane said neighbors should be brought into the planning process for whatever uses are considered.

The council expects to vote Monday evening, March 11, on formally seeking concepts from developers. If there are submissions, the council would likely then seek formal proposals from developers before deciding whether to sell the property -- consisting of seven-tenths of an acre -- to a developer.

Comments (9)
Posted by: Stephen K Carroll | Mar 11, 2019 09:43

The city has known they will be taking possession for a year now.  If there were any developers serious about this project they would have come forward by now.  The reality is existing rental prices cannot support the investment.  The city will need to participate in any proposals through T.I.F.'s or other financial incentives.  Its time to put the committees away and invite the real players to the table.  Over a year ago I told then acting city manager Audra Bell that our own Joe Cloutier purchased an old school very similar to the McClain building from the town of Millinocket and refitted the structure into senior housing.  I'm going out on the limb and guess no one has even contacted him.  It's past time to get serious about this project before the city ends up paying the bills at taxpayers expense just like the Lincoln st school.  The city should help the owners of that building allow housing and perhaps combine the two.

Posted by: Ian Emmott | Mar 05, 2019 21:16

Consolidate government there and sell town hall property that’s practically in Thomaston. My home town did this 20 years ago and it was the smartest move they made once the prior properties sold and overhead cleared. Government needs to be centrally located.

Posted by: Kendall Merriam | Mar 05, 2019 16:13

Once the city gets into the real estate business in the fall, when the school admin. moves out, there will be costs incurred for city tax payers, e.g. heating, lighting, electricity, basic maintenance until someone buys the property, etc. Since when did city counselors gain real estate appraisers skills/licenses or city planning certificates, or make findings about housing needs without requisite research?

Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Mar 05, 2019 14:09

Not only would the City not be investing any money, if the building was sold to a for profit company, the City would receive tax revenues from it. I have more than a casual interest in this - my own house is right around the corner from it.

Posted by: Sumner Kinney | Mar 05, 2019 13:38

My friend Francis Mazzeo is right.  Sell it to the developers with the best idea and track record for a dollar.  Unload it.

Posted by: Stephen Betts | Mar 05, 2019 11:53

The city would not be spending money on these proposed developments. The idea is for the city to sell it to the bidder with the best idea.


Posted by: Nina Reed | Mar 05, 2019 10:40

do tax payers ever get a say so in these hair- brained ideas. how bout an idea to  reduce taxes? patricia williams


Posted by: Gerald A Weinand | Mar 05, 2019 09:20

It is incorrect to say that high-end condos are not feasible because there are no views of the water. Just look at the old Knox Mill in Camden. That said, Rockland needs market rate housing, apartments for folks that can't get a mortgage. The wide corridors (foyers as they are labeled in this article) can be used to expand the former classrooms now proposed housing units. At least part of the basement can be developed into housing. Parking is going to be an issue, of course.

Another possibility is to locate City Hall there and sell the current property to be redeveloped.

I'm happy to chat with any developer.

Gerald Weinand, Architect

Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Mar 05, 2019 08:15

Did we learn nothing from the money pit next door?  Offer it for a dollar and see what comes forward. The taxpayers do not need to sink money into'a property that generates no tax dollars. This historical building craze is getting ridiculous. I am tired of paying for someone else's memories. For once use some common sense and unload this derelict.

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