South Portland armory to become store-cafe-gas station

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The former Maine Army National Guard Armory, a fixture on Broadway for more than 70 years, may have a new future as a convenience store and cafe.

City Manager Jim Gailey this week said the city has been offered $700,000 for the armory by Topsham-based Priority Real Estate Group. The city bought the armory, built in 1941, for $650,000 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court  in April 2006. City tax records value the 2.75-acre property at $1.04 million.

Gailey announced the offer to the City Council on Monday, Nov. 17, without delving into specifics, then revealed more later in the week. The sale will not require the council’s approval because councilors in June authorized Gailey to sell the 25,000-square-foot building.

Priority Real Estate develops commercial properties, banks and credit unions, including combinations of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants.

Gailey said the buyers are expected to hold to form with the armory.

“The use will be a convenience store and cafe with a filling station behind the building, with the pumps to be shielded by the building,” he said.

The proposed use will require tearing down more than 11,000 square feet at the rear of the building, previously used as a drill hall. The remaining 14,000 square feet and front of the building will be rehabilitated. The city will retain an easement to repair the front facade, Gailey said.

The new owners will also grant an easement if a trail linking the site to Hinckley Park on Highland Avenue can be built, Gailey said. The trail would follow the line of Central Maine Power Co. poles.

Both easements were listed as conditions of sale on the city website. The building is currently in a residential zone, and is considered a “Place in Peril” by Greater Portland Landmarks.

The armory was most recently leased to Cape Elizabeth resident Eric Matheson for his Fore River Sound Stage operation, intended to provide studio and sound editing space for film companies.

Matheson and the city agreed to a five-year lease in 2011 after several years of negotiations. The lease carried two five-year options, but Matheson terminated it in February, blaming slow business on a lack of state tax incentives for the film industry.

Before it was acquired by the city, the armory was projected as the future home of the Jones Museum of Glass and Ceramics, then located near Douglas Mountain in Sebago. Museum owners bought the armory in October 2002 for $550,000 according to city tax records, but the move was never made and owners eventually sought bankruptcy protection.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

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The World War II-era South Portland armory could become a combination convenience store, cafe, and gas station if city councilors accept a $700,000 offer for the building. The city bought the armory in 2006.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.