YARMOUTH — The Village Improvement Society has selected a buyer for the Grand Trunk Railroad Depot on Main Street.
Ford Reiche, of Freeport, plans to convert the 1906 building into office space.
The Canadian National Railway built the station and owned it for more than 60 years until the railroad stopped running trains to Yarmouth and proposed tearing it down. To save the building from being demolished, VIS bought the building for $500 in 1968.
In 1979, the train depot landed on the National Register of Historic Places.
For more than 40 years, the society leased the space to Village Florist & Co. However, the florist did not renew its lease last year.
VIS President Linda Grant said the society decided maintaining the station was “out of their reach” and put it on the market in February for an asking price of $165,000.
According to Maine Preservation, which announced the sale Monday, 14 bidders submitted offers on the property.
Although he said he could not disclose the exact price until the sale has been finalized, Reiche said he offered more than the asking price.
He said a railroad station as old, yet well-maintained as the Grand Trunk Station is unique. Its location at the heart of Yarmouth’s village district, he added, is a bonus.
“It’s very, very rare that you find a railroad station as original as this one,” he said. “It’s basically a time capsule and it’s been kept in very good shape. … It’s really special.”
Reiche said his plan is to lease the space to one tenant initially, and maybe two in the future. He said he could not identify the tenant yet, but is in the “hand-shake stage” with someone who is as committed to historic preservation as he is.
Although required maintenance of the building’s interior and exterior – paint, windows, and lighting and plumbing fixtures – will be “a significant cost,” Reiche said, their appearance will be maintained.
“It will look just like it did when it was in use,” Reiche said.
The train depot is part of the Protect and Sell Program at Maine Preservation, which connects sellers with buyers who want to rehabilitate historic properties. The Yarmouth-based nonprofit will also hold preservation easements on the property, which will allow renovations to make the building more functional, but require review of any proposed changes and protect the building from demolition.
“This is a wonderful piece of property in the center of Yarmouth,” Grant said. “We know that (Reiche) has a history of doing great preservation projects. That was a major reason his bid was selected.”
This will be the fifth property listed on the National Register of Historic Places that Reiche has worked to rehabilitate. In 2015, he paid $238,000 to purchase and restore Halfway Rock Light Station off Harpswell, which was abandoned by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1975.
He has also rehabilitated a historic train station on the Grand Trunk Line in Gilead that now serves as the Gilead Historical Society’s headquarters, and the Charles B. Clark House in Portland.
Reiche’s son, George, who is a board member of Greater Portland Landmarks, will coordinate all restoration work.
Reiche said he plans to submit a proposal to the Planning Board for site plan review this month or next and, in the meantime, is working out “real estate complexities.” Much of the land surrounding the station is either owned by the town or the state.
“All that was ever sold to the VIS was the building and half the footprint,” he added. “We’ve got this great building and this great location and a very complicated real estate deal.”
Still, Reiche believes the “pieces can be put back together.” All parties involved in the sale have been extremely cooperative and supportive, he added.
“It’s a good outcome for the railroad station,” Reiche said. “Everyone’s working in the same direction on this one.”
Reiche said he’d like to work out an arrangement with the town to add 10 parking spots that are “semi-public and semi-dedicated to the building” on the property and accessed from Main Street through the park.
Grant added the proposed parking won’t impede on the station’s surrounding park.
“I think people will be pleased by his plan for minimal parking,” she said.
Reiche estimates it’ll be another three months or so before ground is broken and then another four to five months for construction, meaning the space could be occupied early next year.
The Grand Trunk Railroad Depot in Yarmouth is under contract to be sold to Ford Reiche, who plans to convert it to commercial office space. This will be the fifth time Reiche has purchased and restored a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Jocelyn Van Saun / The Forecaster)
Ford Reiche’s previous preservation works include the Halfway Rock Light Station off Harpswell and the Charles B. Clark House in Portland. (Shawn Patrick Ouellette / PPH)