AUGUSTA – The imposing but elegant Kennebec Arsenal buildings overlooking the Kennebec River have thick granite-block walls built in the early 1800s to withstand all manner of enemy attacks.

Those walls — some covered in profanity-laced graffiti — still stand.

But without help, they can’t forever hold back the ravages of time, fueled by what some state and city officials see as neglect by the North Carolina developer who, in a special deal with the state, took ownership of the buildings in 2007 with plans and promises to preserve and redevelop them.

Little to nothing has developed at the Arsenal since Niemann Capital struck a deal for the site four years ago.

In the meantime, vandals have smashed windows, broken through doors and set a fire at the complex.

The lack of work on the site has state and city officials worried it could continue to deteriorate if left relatively unsecured and undeveloped.

“I think there is great concern in the community, especially the historic preservation community, that things are being allowed to deteriorate there,” City Manager William Bridgeo said. “That’s worrisome. It’s a national landmark property.

“The people of Maine, and residents of Augusta, have been very patient, understanding the economy is difficult. Nevertheless it is distressing to see the vandalism and lack of maintenance and lack of security occurring down there.”

Bridgeo said he reached out to state officials in March “to discuss what options exist to either exert pressure on the developers who own the property or to initiate action to reclaim ownership of it by the state or perhaps the Capital Riverfront Improvement District.”

City and state officials met and agreed Bridgeo should contact Niemann Capital’s Tom Niemann. Bridgeo did that and said Niemann is willing to come to Augusta to discuss the issue. Bridgeo said a meeting will be set as soon as all parties involved can agree on a date.

Tom Niemann said by email on Friday that his company, which also is a partner in redeveloping the Hathaway building in Waterville, is still interested in and capable of developing the Arsenal property.

Reasons he gave for the absence of progress there are a lack of support for residential development from the financing community, lack of commercial tenants and an overall difficult market for real estate since the fall of 2008.

He said he looks forward to meeting with officials in Maine to discuss the project, and acknowledged he’s concerned they could initiate the process to take the property back.

“Hopefully we can work on a solution with the state, city and broader business community on finding tenants and getting the property redeveloped as was planned before we hit a dead end on the residential side and the real estate market collapsed nationally,” he said.

“We have a considerable investment in the project to date. We need help here in Augusta and also some additional assistance in Waterville in getting the remaining 50,000 square feet of commercial space (in Hathaway) leased. Niemann Capital is still as committed to Maine as we were when recruited to the state in late 2003 and we still hope to play an ongoing role in its revitalization and preservation efforts in the future.”

State Historian Earle Shettleworth Jr. said the Kennebec Arsenal is a National Historic Landmark, and its buildings are highly significant, historically and architecturally, as the complex is considered by preservationists to be the most complete, best-preserved federal military arsenal from the pre-Civil War era in the country.

“One of the concerns is just securing the property from vandalism, which has been increasing.” Shettleworth said. “If allowed to go on, that, of course, will just further compromise the long-term opportunities to develop the buildings, if they’re not at least minimally maintained and properly secured.

“Ideally, we’d like to see the present owner, or if that’s not feasible, a new owner found, who could go forward and develop that property. Only through development are we going to be able to secure that property,” Shettleworth said.

City and state officials expressed similar concerns last year. Niemann then said his company was still very interested in developing the Arsenal but had been unable to secure financing. He also said the company would try to protect the buildings from vandals.

A recent visit to the site revealed more vandalism, with broken windows and doors appearing to allow access to some buildings. Augusta police have described the site as a law enforcement problem.

Niemann said his company has been working with local police and realizes more needs to be done to protect the site.