WESTBROOK — A local real estate investor bought the historic Dana Warp Mill at an auction Monday for $2.5 million and said he has already begun making upgrades and aggressively marketing the mixed-use building.

Aleksandar “Sasa” Cook, who made the sole bid Monday morning at the mill, took over the loan on the five-story building from Bank of America last month. Essentially, he’s now buying the building from himself.

Cook said there’s about 60,000 square feet of available space in the 250,000-square-foot building, which is occupied by about 40 tenants, including a fitness center, a spice manufacturer, a software company and artists with studios. He’s seeking one large tenant and several startup companies to fill the space.

Current tenants said Monday that they hope the new owner will resolve parking problems around the building before bringing in more businesses.

City officials had begun talks with the mill’s former owner, Tim Flannery of Flannery Properties, about creating more parking near St. Hyacinth’s Church on Brown Street.

Keith Luke, Westbrook’s economic and community development director, said he’s continuing that conversation with Cook. They met after Monday’s auction.

Cook said he plans to improve the building’s interior and facade. He’s replacing the awnings and plans to create a more definitive main entrance. He said the roof and smokestack need repairs.

“There’s a lot of deferred maintenance,” he said.

The former spinning mill has been managed by CB Richard Ellis/Boulos Property Management since September, when the bank put the building into receivership because Flannery defaulted on his mortgage.

While Cook controlled the loan, Flannery still technically owned the building.

Cook, whose family-owned Schoodic Group has three other properties in Westbrook and one in South Portland, wouldn’t say how much he paid for the loan, which was worth $4.8 million. He said Boulos will continue to manage the property.

Flannery bought the 130-year-old mill in 1997 and renovated it into a modern mixed-use building.

Tenants said they moved into the mill because of its affordable rent, proximity to Interstate 95 and attractive interior, namely the high ceilings, exposed-brick walls and large windows looking out onto the Presumpscot River.

Tina Dougherty, an owner of Doughboy’s deli, across the street from the mill, said she has talked to business owners who considered moving into the Dana Warp Mill until they saw the parking situation.

There are about 60 diagonal spaces along the building on Bridge Street and a small parking lot at one end of the building.

“It definitely deters people,” Dougherty said.

Nancy Capps, who works at DennyMike’s Sauces and Rubs, said she comes into work an hour earlier on rainy days to avoid a long walk from her car to the building.

“At 6:30, you can come in and the parking spaces are full,” she said.

DennyMike’s has also had issues with the building’s freight elevator, which it relies on for bringing in supplies and putting out products. Capps said she had to tell a truck driver who was delivering spice bottles from North Andover, Mass., to turn around and go back because the elevator wasn’t working.

Manager Josh Amerigan said he has gotten stuck between floors three times. “Hopefully, the new owner will actually put some money in it,” he said. “This place needs an overhaul.”

But inconveniences are to be expected from an old building, said Gabrielle Melchionda, whose Mad Gab’s natural beauty products business has been in the mill for more than 10 years.

“It’s been more good than bad,” she said. “It’s got a lot of charm.”

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]