FALMOUTH – A former auto dealership in Falmouth has been reborn as a retail center, marking the latest step in the ongoing revitalization of the town’s Route 1 corridor.

Last month, Bangor Savings Bank and Falmouth Ace Hardware opened at 215 Route 1 in a building that was once home to a Saab dealership.

The auto dealer closed up roughly a year-and-a-half ago, leaving the 30-year-old, 15,000 square-foot space temporarily vacant.

Late last year, after briefly considering demolishing the structure and building from scratch, Falmouth-based BAAS Partners Realty LLC, the property’s owner, decided to renovate the building.

BAAS Partners declined to comment, but their architect, Mark Sengelmann, said the decision was driven partly by economics. He said building a new structure would have made sense only if the owner found a stable tenant — such as a pharmacy — willing to sign a 20-year lease.

Unable to find such a tenant, BAAS Partners decided to renovate, which Sengelmann called an environmentally-friendly and less expensive option.

“If we tore the whole building down … the contents of the original building would go into a landfill. It’s very green if we go in with a light touch,” he said.

Renovations on the structure, which is now called Bangor Savings Plaza, started in November 2010 and are nearly complete.

Many of the changes made to the structure and the property are largely aesthetic. For instance, builders added curved canopies to the building’s flat roof and new, angled entrance ways. They also removed some pavement to make way for green space with trees, grass and plants, and they installed reduced-glare outdoor lighting.

Sengelmann said the structure now complies with the Falmouth building codes and blends nicely in to the Route 1 surroundings.

The hardware store — the only one in Falmouth — and the bank opened in April. A 1,500-square-foot retail space is still up for rent.

In an October 2010 commercial building permit application filed with the town, the cost of converting the dealership into three retail spaces was estimated at $231,350.

Sengelmann said that represents only part of the total investment, but said the owner did not want to disclose the entire cost.

Theo Holtwijk, director of long-term planning at the town of Falmouth, said the renovated building fits the town’s vision for Route 1. He said that for about 20 years the town has worked to make the street more pedestrian friendly and has promoted mixed-use development that includes retail, office, residential and recreational space.

“We don’t want to see any businesses leave, but to see one replaced in this manner serves Falmouth and the surrounding communities well,” he said.

Holtwijk is pleased to see private investment in the area, and said that the town also continues to make improvements on Route 1. For instance, the town is working on plans to bury electrical lines and increase the amount of green space along the road.

“Maybe at one point you will drive down Route 1 and all those wires will be underground and there will be street trees and you will say, ‘This is nice,”‘ said Holtwijk.

 

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

jhemmerdinger@mainetoday.com