Yarmouth music center enters 'next chapter,' buys building

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YARMOUTH — The board of directors of community music center 317 Main have closed a deal to buy the building, and plan to expand into an adjacent barn.

The nonprofit rented the building at 317 Main St. for 11 years. The Oct. 27 purchase included the attached barn, which the organization plans to renovate. 

“When the opportunity came to purchase, we were very excited because we can stay on Main Street and it gives us the opportunity to dream about expanding into the barn,” Executive Director John Williams said. “Buying the building really helps us secure our future.”

The building, which Williams said was built in the 1850s, was previously owned by 317 Main founder Peter Milliken, who no longer serves on the board. The organization bought it for $590,000. 

“The time just came when the organization was ready to stand on its own two feet,” Williams said.

He said he’s unsure how much it will cost to renovate the barn, which has been deemed unsafe by the town. Some of the center’s files and furniture have been stored there, but the plan is to turn the first floor into more studio space and the second floor into a performance and recital area.

According to Williams, the music center works with 450 students a week in group and individual lessons. It is completely booked each day during its busiest time, from 3-7 p.m. There are nine studio spaces in the building, and Williams said the cafe, offices and a hallway are often used to accommodate more students.

Communications Director Amy Sinclair said putting more studio spaces in the barn will allow teachers to work with more musicians.

“There’s been a lot of excitement about growth,” she said. “This is getting us to the next chapter.”

The organization also wants to create studio space for the children’s music group, Little Roots, so they can have their own separate area.

“We’re really dedicated to serving all ages,” Molly Gallagher Burk, the director of development, said. “At this point (Little Roots) uses all the spaces that others use.”

The second floor of the barn may be used as performance space, as the space in the main building is smaller and can accommodate only 35 people. Using the barn could allow up to 150 people to attend shows.

Williams said the addition of the barn would double 317 Main’s total footprint, bringing it up to 9,000 square feet.

The organization went before the Planning Board last month to present a conceptual design. Williams said it was well received by the board, but a vote was not taken because the project is still in its preliminary stages.

The organization has been talking with architects about different design options and will also be talking with residents and others who are part of the music center. They said community involvement is a big part of 317’s mission, so they want feedback on the use of the barn.

“Going forward we want the community to be a big part of this discussion,” Sinclair said.

She said the organization wants to hold community forums to talk about various needs and ideas for the space. None are planned yet, but Sinclair said people are encouraged to share ideas at an open house scheduled for Dec. 5.

Williams said the organization is planning a campaign feasibility study for next year, but is unsure of a timeline for the project beyond that.

He knows when he wishes it could be done, though.

“We need the space tomorrow, but we can’t start tomorrow,” he said. “We’re ready to start tomorrow.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

The 317 Main music community center in Yarmouth has purchased its building, as well as an adjacent barn. Administrators Chris Moore, left, Amy Sinclair, John Williams, and Molly Gallagher Burk said more people  will be able to enjoy the center.

Danielle Pause, right, instructs New Gloucester resident Clara Phillips on Tuesday, Nov. 17, at 317 Main in Yarmouth.

I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.