South Portland gets grant to clean up former armory

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SOUTH PORTLAND — The city will use $160,000 in federal money to clean up the former Maine Army National Guard Armory before it’s converted to a gas station and convenience store later this year.

The Brownfields grant through the Greater Portland Council of Governments will be used primarily to demolish a portion of the armory at 682 Broadway, and clear the site of asbestos and other hazardous materials, City Manager Jim Gailey told the City Council Monday. The Westbrook engineering firm Credere Associates has been awarded the contract.

Total cleanup of the site will cost about $192,000, Mayor Tom Blake said. The city will provide $32,000 up front in the form of cash, labor or materials, but will be compensated in full when the deal closes with the developer, Topsham-based Priority Real Estate Group.

The federal Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Loan Fund is typically used by communities to clean up and reuse property that has been contaminated over time. The recipient of funds is also absolved of any future liability after the site is remediated.

The council, with the exception of Councilors Claude Morgan and Maxine Beecher, who were absent, unanimously accepted the grant, along with mandated historic preservation of the armory.

“In a sense this is just authorizing us to move forward with the grant,” Gailey said. “And moving forward with the grant allows us to move forward with the cleanup.”

The city purchased the armory in April 2006 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for $650,000.

In 2011 the city leased the vacant building to Cape Elizabeth-based Fore River Sound Stage for photo and video production. The lease was given up in 2014 by the business owner.

Last November, the city approved the sale of the dilapidated armory for $700,000 to Priority. The sale is expected to be finalized no later than March 1, Gailey said Monday.

The vacant, World War II-era building will be refurbished into a 10-pump Irving gas station with a convenience store, with space on the second floor for offices, retail and community meetings. Construction is slated to begin in February and last six months, according to David Latulippe, vice president of Priority.

Because federal grant money is being utilized, the city is required to document the history of the building.

“This is actually one of the added benefits of going through this process,” Latulippe told councilors.

Margaret Gaertner, a historic building consultant with the Maine State Historic Preservation Commission, will gather materials for the written and visual review.

The historic record will include information about what the building has been used for and how it was built under former President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration Program during the New Deal, Latulippe said Tuesday morning. Once the review is finalized, it will be given to the city.

Blake called the project “an excellent opportunity for our community.”

“The fact that we are historically documenting it is important for future generations,” Councilor Patti Smith said.

Alex Acquisto can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or Follow Alex on Twitter: @AcquistoA.

South Portland will use $160,000 in federal grant money to remove asbestos and other hazardous materials from the former Maine National Guard Armory, at 682 Broadway, before it is converted into a gas station and convenience store later this year.

South Portland and Scarborough reporter for The Forecaster. Graduate of Western Kentucky University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies. Alex can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106.