Odd Fellows deal still in flux

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NORWAY – The second deadline has passed for the potential buyer of the Odd Fellows Hall to lay down $150,000 for the rundown but prominent Main Street building.

But despite the delay, both the Growth Council, which is selling the building, and interested buyer Rick Lockwood said the deal should be clinched by the end of the week.

“We’re definitely moving forward,” said Lockwood, the Gorham contractor who signed a purchase and sale agreement for the building last fall. “We had a holiday, that screwed everything up, but we’re all talking. Everything’s moving forward.” Lockwood was referring to Martin Luther King day on Monday when banks and businesses were closed.

The council originally scheduled an end-of-December closing date for the three-story brick building at 201 Main St. When Lockwood indicated earlier in December he wouldn’t make that deadline, the council pushed back the date by two weeks to Jan. 15.

Council President John Shattuck said Thursday that he has been in frequent contact with Lockwood and would prefer to see him buy the building rather than turning it over to another unknown investor at this point.

“He’s the guy I’d like to see get it done,” Shattuck said. “He has still expressed strong interest, and we still would like to see him close because he has a great plan for the building.”

Lockwood has said in the past he’d like to put an upscale restaurant in the basement, rent out the first and second floors to the Maine Made & More gift shop, and find an art gallery that would be interested in moving into the top floor. He estimated he would invest about $800,000 in the project.

The building, constructed in 1894, is in the Downtown Historic District next to the prominent Opera House with its large clock tower. The Odd Fellows Hall had an addition built in 1911. The first floor was home to The Little Jungle Pet Store. The second floor once housed the district courthouse and law offices, while the third floor was reserved for members of the International Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 16.

The back of the building, including the basement level, overlooks Pennesseewassee Stream and the former C.B. Cummings & Sons dowel mill property beyond, which has been cleared for construction of townhouses and offices by the Portland-based Libra Foundation philanthropic organization.

After the Growth Council bought the hall from the Odd Fellows in 2002 for $68,000, it gutted the first floor, then abandoned redevelopment last summer because it was expected to cost more than $1 million. The council put it on the market with $268,000 of public funding still tied to it. Most of that money was lost, but about $95,000 was salvaged and is available for the new owner.

The first potential buyers – a young couple who were never identified – signed up and then backed out, and this led to the loss of the public funding, which had to be returned to the state after a deadline had passed.

Then Lockwood stepped in.

“If we don’t have a closing in the very near future, we’ll make a listing with a broker,” Shattuck said. “We have some people who have expressed interest, and we’ll talk to them.”

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