BUCKSPORT — The owner of Wahl’s Dairy Port is proposing to buy the historic, decaying Wilson Hall and eventually convert the building into apartments.
Larry Wahl proposes purchasing the building from the town of Bucksport for a dollar. He also proposes that the town provide a forgivable $63,000 loan to defray the cost of making needed safety improvements to the building.
The Town Council Jan. 10 voted that Town Manager Sue Lessard should draft an agreement with Wahl that will be presented to a public hearing in February.
“I’m excited and anxious to get going,” Wahl said Tuesday. “It’s going to be good.”
Wahl said the first phase would entail stabilizing the building and making it watertight.
“Hopefully, I can go into a second phase and do some apartments,” Wahl said.
In addition to his ice creamery, Wahl owns several rental properties.
Wahl said with development at the former Verso mill site, including Whole Oceans and Maine Maritime Academy’s training facility, there would be a need for more apartments and temporary housing.
Residents at the council meeting spoke for and against saving the building.
Former Town Councilor Mike Ormsby said most residents want to see the building preserved but not at taxpayer expense.
“Put it out for bid — a dollar gets it,” Ormsby said. Add the stipulations that the new owner either secure the building for future renovations, completely renovate it or tear it down, he said.
“It will not be the town’s fault if nobody bids and the building has to go,” Ormsby said. “This has gone on long enough, really. If nobody bids on it, it gets torn down. It doesn’t put all of it on you that you tore the building down.”
The property has seen prospective developers come and go over the years.
Most recently, state Rep. Richard Campbell (R-Orrington) proposed renovating the building into “high-end senior residences.” But, that proposal is now off the table. A potential business partner for the project was indicted for theft last summer in Cumberland County.
The building, which overlooks the Penobscot River and Fort Knox, was once a Methodist seminary. It was built in 1851 and is one of nine Bucksport properties that are on the National Registry of Historic Places.