Uncertainty precedes delayed Old Port foreclosure auction in Portland

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PORTLAND — Mariagrazia Zanardi moved from Italy to the U.S. last year to establish a gelato shop in the Old Port. 

On Monday evening, guests waited patiently in line at Gorgeous Gelato to get a taste of the frozen Italian treat.

But the future is uncertain for Zanardi and other Old Port business owners leasing space in two buildings at the Union Street end of Fore and Wharf Streets.

The buildings at 432, 434, 436 and 446 Fore St. and 42 and 50 Wharf St. were scheduled to be auctioned off on Thursday. But the sale has been postponed until July 22. 

Besides Gorgeous Gelato, the businesses in those buildings include Blazin’ Ace, Foreplay Sports Pub and Pearl on Fore Street, and Havana South and Oasis on Wharf Street.

Zanardi said she has not received any official communication about the potential impact the foreclosure auction could have on her business.

“Unfortunately, we don’t know what will happen,” she said. “I think maybe someone will tell us.”

Likewise, Sarah Lamb, who tends bar at Foreplay Sports Pub, said her boss has only heard anecdotally about the upcoming auction. But she has not heard about how business might be affected.

“I don’t imagine they would push out good business,” Lamb said.

Geo Farely, 28, said he moved into a spacious apartment with high, cathedral ceilings at 432 Fore St. earlier this month. He was shocked to see a notice about the foreclosure when he came home one day last week.

“At first, I was freaking out,” Farely said. “But it said keep paying your rent and it doesn’t affect your lease.”

Jonah Bowman, who works at Blazin’ Ace, said he heard about the auction from an old high school buddy.

Bowman said the owners have worked hard to regain business they lost two years ago when they moved from the St. Johns Street. He said he hopes the store will remain under a new building owner.

“Business is unbelievable,” he said. “We’re doing better this spring than we did last summer.”

Not everyone is on edge. Cassidy Pappas, the manager of Havana South, said he isn’t too concerned about how a change of ownership would affect the business at 50 Wharf St.

“We’re fine,” Pappas said.

The seller’s attorney, Lee Lowry, would not answer questions about the auction, including what affect the auction would have on existing businesses.

When asked if the businesses were notified about the auction, Lowry said, “you should talk to the businesses.”

According to city records, the Fore and Wharf street buildings were bought by Old Port Retail Holdings LLC on May 21, 2007, for $6.85 million and $1.45 million, respectively.

The auction is part of foreclosure proceedings by the mortgage holder, BACM 2007-3 Wharf Street LLC.

The buildings will be sold “as is” to the highest bidder at 50 Wharf St. by acutioneer Daniel Boivin, according to a public notice of the auction.

Potential bidders must file a $50,000 deposit before the auction with Lowry’s law firm, Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry.

The successful bidder will be required to pay the balance of the purchase price within 45 days.

Until the fate of the buildings is known, business owners like Zanardi will just keep on working.

“We just wait,” she said. “We pay our rent.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.

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Businesses like the Foreplay Sports Pub, Gorgeous Gelato and Blazin’ Ace may face an uncertain future if their Fore Street building is sold in a foreclosure auction on July 22, along with two Wharf Street buildings.

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