Auburn mulling Chinese group offer on police building

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AUBURN — City councilors could review an offer by a Chinese investment group to purchase the old 1 Minot Ave. police station at their meeting Tuesday, Sept. 8.

City Manager Howard Kroll said Miracle Enterprise LLC has offered to purchase the vacant building for $500,000 and make it part of their four-star medical tourism complex.

City Councilors are scheduled to review the purchase during an executive session and could vote on it at their Sept. 21 meeting, if they have no objections.

“There is interest by that group to buy the police station, but I think the City Council ought to have a chance to talk about that negotiation,” Mayor Jonathan LaBonte said.

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The building is currently valued at $568,000, Kroll said.

Councilors and the public could learn more about the group’s proposed development as well as a time line for the project and public review at the Sept. 21 meeting, LaBonte said.

“That would be chance to talk about redevelopment of that site and some of the alternative funding models,” LaBonte said.

Investors from the Guo Tou Sheng Tong Investment Co. LTD and Beijing HongYu Investments and Developments Co. LTD created a Maine corporation, Miracle Enterprise LLC, in June. That Maine corporation purchased the 67 Minot Ave. Lunn and Sweet building on July 30, along with the neighboring 81 Minot Ave. lot.

The group announced its plans for a medical tourism destination Aug. 4, along with agreements with Central Maine Medical Center and a clearinghouse that connects Chinese patients with doctors.

The $40 million development would cater to wealthy Chinese patients seeking American medical treatments.

Group representatives said they hoped to be in Auburn in October, using the former Auburn Police Station as an office.

But LaBonte said nothing is settled.

“There is no council authorization to build road or add underground utilities,” LaBonte said. “Staff can’t execute projects without a council vote. So that is a legal safeguard, that staff can’t do anything other than due diligence.”

The city has spent $8,400 on engineering tests to determine costs to extend S. Goff Street into the Edward Little Franklin Woods/Snake Trail area. Kroll said those studies would be necessary if The Barn building is going to be redeveloped. Extending S. Goff Street was discussed in 2013 and 2014 when developer Joe Casalinova held an option to purchase the police building, he said.

“We need to know how much ledge is involved and what kind of materials we are going to be working with,” Kroll said. “That will affect the bottom-line costs of whatever we decide to do. So we need to know that before we can proceed. I have to go before the council and let them know what we are up against.”

Kroll said councilors will have to approve any site work in the area, including extending the road and improving utilities. That would could be paid with Tax Increment Finance money as well as state transportation grants.

“Until the city is guaranteed a certain value amount, I’m not going to recommend that we move forward on any project,” Kroll said. “There is no way. I’m not going to hedge on something I’m not sure of.”

staylor@sunjournal.com

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