Yarmouth planners to get concept for historic depot

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YARMOUTH — Conceptual plans to preserve and convert the historic Grand Trunk Railroad Depot into office space will be presented to the Planning Board Aug. 22. 

Including land purchase and development, the project by potential buyer Ford Reiche of Freeport is estimated to cost $750,000. According to the site plan application, construction will take about four months to complete and will not begin until after the sale closes, which is anticipated to happen by the end of summer.

Last month, Reiche announced he is planning to lease the space to Gorham Savings Bank. According to the application, although small, the building could eventually house two tenants, “as it is divided in half with separate entry doors, interior spaces and bathrooms.”

In July, Reiche said his contract to purchase the property from the Village Improvement Society, as well as the lease agreement with Gorham Savings Bank, are contingent on working out what he called a “complicated land problem:” Much of the land under and 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,” Reiche said in June. “We’ve got this great building and this great location and a very complicated real estate deal.”

He said he is in the process of obtaining easements from the town, the Maine Department of Transportation and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. 

If the concept plan is approved, finalizing a use agreement with the Town Council and site plan approval would be required. 

Reiche’s plan proposes 10 parking spaces – some open to the public and others exclusively for bank employees – with a one-way loop, “with all parking in ‘head-in’ or 90-degree spaces toward the exterior of the site. The added parking won’t infringe on the Village Green, but should provide safe pedestrian and vehicle access.

The removal of invasive shrubs, new lighting and benches and walkway improvements are also proposed. 

Reiche said the building’s interior is in good shape and will only require minor improvements, such as painting, plumbing and lighting.

A July 25 memo to the board from landscape architect Sarah Witte said Gorham Savings Bank brings “goodwill to the project,” having purchased and restored the Grand Trunk Railway Co. building at the corner of India and Commercial streets in Portland in 2016. 

“GSB plans to have two or three employees at the restored building, and to conduct a personal or concierge format of banking,” Witte wrote. “This is a somewhat quieter version of the usually busy branch office.”

There will also be a drive-up interactive teller machine on site where customers can speak with bank employees as well as conduct automatic transactions. 

According to a memo submitted to the Planning Board last month from bank Executive Vice President Roger Levesque, Gorham Savings has a “long history” working with Reiche on real estate development projects in Cumberland County. 

“We have financed several projects for him with total development costs between $1 million and $50 million, all of which have been successful,” Levesque wrote. 

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, as well as the Charles B. Clark House in Portland.

The Canadian National Railway built the station in 1906 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.

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.

Village Improvement Society, a Yarmouth-based nonprofit, will also hold preservation easements on the property. The easements will allow renovations to be made to make the building more functional, but require any proposed changes to be reviewed and will protect the building from demolition.

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or jvansaun@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Ford Reiche has reached an agreement for Gorham Savings Bank to lease space in the 112-year-old Grand Trunk Railroad depot on Main Street.

Next Wednesday, the Planning Board will consider conceptual approval of Reiche’s site plan application for the restoration of the Grand Trunk Railroad depot, to be occupied by Gorham Savings Bank.