Mike Hanes, a mechanical engineer from Falmouth, discusses his plans Thursday for creating 16 apartments and commercial space in the Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street in Norway during a public hearing by the Planning Board in the Town Hall. Steve Sherlock/Sun Journal

NORWAY — The redevelopment of the century-old Odd Fellows Hall on Main Street took a step closer to reality Thursday night after a public hearing by the Planning Board.

Residents were supportive of the plan by developer Mike Hanes of Falmouth and architect Jake Keeler of Jake Keeler Design Build of Portland to build 16 affordable apartments and an 1,800-square-foot commercial space in the three-story brick building at 389 Main St. Built in 1893, it has been vacant for more than 22 years.

The board has scheduled a site walk of the property for 10 a.m. Monday, Feb. 6, and will discuss the application further at its next meeting Feb. 9.

Hanes, who describes himself as a “problem solver,” was working in real estate when he discovered the Odd Fellows Hall  a year ago while walking along Main Street to Cafe Nomad to get a cup of coffee. Surprised that it was vacant, he saw the potential and began working with Keeler to develop a plan to bring it back to life.

Keeler was project manager for the remodeling of the iconic Opera House next door and continues to be involved in its development, he said Friday.

The Odd Fellows project calls for 16 units of affordable housing at 80% of the average income in Oxford County, including two apartments that meet Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible guidelines on the first floor. Fourteen of the apartments will be one bedroom. Four apartments will be in the basement and cannot be considered ADA compliant because of the slope behind the building, Hanes said.


One two-bedroom apartment each will be on the second and third floors. The third floor, where the Odd Fellows met, has 13½- to 14-foot high ceilings. Hanes is considering loft space in those apartments, but those plans are still in their infancy.

The original floors are in good condition, Hanes said, and the tin ceiling will likely be reused in the commercial space.

The street level would be rebuilt to its original appearance, looking similar to the iconic Opera House next door.

The housing part of the project will be financed 100% by the Maine State Housing Authority, Hanes said.

The hall once had businesses and offices, including the district court and jail, as well as a ceremonial space for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge No. 16. The basement and first floor were built in 1893 after fire destroyed much of the downtown business district. The other floors were added in 1910. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The structure had been in disrepair for several years following a couple of failed attempts to repurpose it. Plagued by broken windows and pigeons for a time, the hall was listed in 2013 by Maine Preservation as one of the 10 most endangered historic buildings in the state.


“These are the projects that are fun,” Keeler said. “This project is intellectually challenging.”

Planning Board member Dan Quinn said parking would be an issue for tenants, a concern also expressed to the Planning Board in a letter from Brian Shibles, executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer for Norway Savings Bank, headquartered on Main Street.

Shibles cited the “lack of available on-site parking and adequate off-site parking as a major consideration for evaluating the project and how it will adversely impact the public and private parking spaces in the downtown area that are untended to benefit the existing businesses.”

If approved, Hanes hopes to start renovations by this November with a completion date tentatively set for between January and March 2025.

The Planning Board also heard a proposal from Jeff Baker to establish a listening lounge with a restaurant and live music space at 493 Main St., directly across from the Gingerbread House at the gateway to the downtown.

The property would include an outdoor beer garden for perhaps 50 people. Describing it as a “chill environment,” Baker said his plan is to “bring people together” for conversation and to listen to good music. Much of the music would come from his vast record collection played on a first-rate audio system, but he hopes to offer some live performances on weekends. To address noise concerns, Baker said any outdoor music will end by 9 p.m.

The board must review the application to see if it meets the town’s standards.

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