MECHANIC FALLS – A farmer’s market, a holistic health service center, a professional building with leased space.

Town officials have already been hearing ideas from more than a dozen interested buyers even before putting the downtown building formerly known as JJ’s Restaurant on the market.

The town will send out requests for proposals by the end of the month now that a recently completed title search and property survey reveal no problems with town zoning, said Town Manager Dana Lee.

“That means the Planning Board can waive certain requirements and be flexible, because we want dense use downtown,” said Lee.

The town bought the nearly 100-year-old building for $1 earlier this year from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as the result of a foreclosure.

For decades, the building housed a popular downstairs restaurant and four upstairs apartments before becoming vacant the past three years.

Checking the legalities

The building lost its grandfather status for zoning requirements after its first year of vacancy. Then questions arose whether any future use would be legal. Lots larger than 10,000-square-feet are limited to single use and require accommodations such as on-site parking. Town staff had estimated the lot to be 11,000 square feet.

Legal research into the property showed that the lot measures just over 9,000-square-feet with a tax valuation of $165,000, said Lee. Citiwest, a company that manages and markets HUD properties in New England, appraised the building last year at $138,000.

However, the property survey uncovered a discrepancy in the lot boundary between JJ’s and the public library next door. The town will issue two corrective deeds to show that each building occupies a separate lot, said Lee.

In addition, town staff wants to see a 10-foot, public right-of-way behind the library and JJ’s along the river for a potential downtown park or walkway.

Unless Town Council members object, Lee said he expects to send out an official request for proposals by the end of the month. The deadline for bids will be Sept. 3 and set at a minimum of $10,000, said Lee.

“We’ve got that much into it with the legal work and back taxes,” said Lee.

Included in the request for proposals will be an offer by the Mechanic Falls Development Commission to help with financing and applying for redevelopment grants. However, the grants aren’t guaranteed, and low-interest loans would be based on the buyer’s development plan and credit rating, said the town manager.

Anyone interested in making a proposal can contact Lee at the Town Office at 345-2871 or at [email protected]

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