LEWISTON — As condemned buildings go, the structure at 10 College St. might not look as bad as it is.
"It would look a lot worse if I'd left it alone," neighbor Francis Gagnon said. "But I had to do something. It was hurting my property values, and my business."
Now the city is prepared to tear down the building once and for all. Gagnon can breathe a sigh of relief.
"I'll certainly have less to do," he said. "And maybe it will give the neighborhood a chance."
The six-unit apartment building has been vacant since 2008. According to city records, Deutsche Bank AG New York foreclosed and took over the property from Erwin May in April 2010 but has since done little with it.
Code Enforcement Officer Tom Maynard said the building was left vacant and unsecured for years, luring copper thieves and squatters. Neighbors began using the property as a dump. But the city had no luck contacting the bank.
Eventually, the city had to hire a New York firm to serve notice of the condemnation and demolition hearing at the company's headquarters on Wall Street in New York City.
But with nobody in charge of the building, Gagnon said it just got worse and worse.
"It looked like a big crack house, and people were really intimidated by having it there," Gagnon said.
He began mowing the lawn and taking trash on the lawn to the dump. When police inspected the building and assured him it was empty, he went in and locked windows and secured doors.
"Once I mowed the lawn, it looked like a pretty nice house," he said. "There was one busted window, and that was it. I took old doors that were inside and put them over the windows so people couldn't break in. Then, I boarded up the front door."
Jeff Baril, Lewiston's Code Enforcement officer, called Gagnon a good steward and neighbor.
"He's just trying to keep his family safe," Baril said. "He's just a few doors down, and there's very little space between the units. If a fire were to start there, it could move very quickly to his building."