Odd Fellows Building for sale or lease

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NORWAY — The owner of the Odd Fellows Building has put the historic downtown building on the market.

Harvey Solomon of New Horizon Capital Investment in Norway has placed a $179,000 price tag on the building, according to his real estate broker, Beth Miller of Village Square Realty in Norway. The building space is also for lease, said Solomon.

Solomon and his wife, Dawn, purchased the building in July 2008 for $63,500 from Northeast Bank in Lewiston which held the mortgage. At that time, they had hoped to place a high-scale restaurant on the first floor, offices in the second floor and apartments or even condominiums on the third floor, after an extensive renovation of both the exterior and interior.

Solomon said Monday that his plans to lease the space changed suddenly when other unexpected projects came up.

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“Our guys have so many other projects going on. We didn’t anticipate this at first,” said Solomon Monday of the decision to sell.

“It’s really a new idea. I just threw it out there,” said Solomon. Although he has offered space for future lease for months, Solomon decided to also offer the building for sale when he realized new projects would delay the Odd Fellows Building renovation project by as much as a year.

The owner has already done extensive renovation on the back wall and recently brought the front facade back to its early origins, but the interior remains as a gutted three-floor space.

Now, with the building for sale or lease, it doesn’t make sense to renovate the interior without knowing what the final use of the building will be, Solomon said.

“We don’t want to fix it up. If we get someone, we will build to suit,” he said.

The reaction to the sale so far has been very positive, said Solomon and Miller. Three parties have toured the building since Village Square Realty put the sign in the front window last week, said Miller.

“It is getting good interest,” said Miller.

At least one party has expressed an interest in renting a portion of the building, and several others have already toured it.

“One is still interested. We’re very excited,” said Solomon of the potential lessee who is looking at the first floor and basement for rent. He declined to elaborate on the interested party’s plans.

The basement and first floor of the Odd Fellows Building, which is adjacent to the Opera House, was built in 1894 after the great fire of that year destroyed the majority of the downtown. The second and third floors were added in 1911. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the historic downtown district.

Last year a fire that gutted a Cottage Street apartment Solomon owns and problems with the adjacent Opera House put a temporary hold on the renovation work.

A portion of the Opera House roof collapsed on September 21, 2007, severing a sprinkler pipe which flooded first-floor occupied spaces in the building and compromised the stability of the building. Two engineering studies have deemed the structure to be “unsafe to the public and neighboring property.”

Solomon said Monday that since the town has taken the Opera House by eminent domain and is in the process of getting ready to stabilize the building and turn it over to someone who will develop it, the derelict building no longer appears to be a factor in a potential sale or lease of his own building.

“It’s only going to get better. It’s not a huge hold,” Solomon said of the imposing structure that is about 15 feet from the edge of the Odd Fellows Building.

Now, he says, any delays in selling or leasing the building will probably be the result of the poor economy.

Miller said the building has an interesting history, is versatile, has classic architectural features and sits in a downtown that she believes is ripe for redevelopment, like Rockport and the Old Port section of Portland. “A lot of good things can happen,” she said of the downtown area.

“It’s really a great building,” Miller said.

ldixon@sunjournal.com

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