SKOWHEGAN — It’s coming down.

The big, old building with plywood on the windows and flaking yellow paint at the corner of Madison Avenue and Commercial Street in the heart of downtown Skowhegan has been sold and will be torn down.

Skowhegan’s “eyesore” will become a grassy park, say officials at the Somerset County Economic Development Corp., which closed on the purchase of the building Sept. 1.

The three-story building, along with two other buildings — one on Madison Avenue and another on Commercial Street that wrap around the building — will become green space, SEDC President Peter Schultz said Thursday.

“The plan is to eliminate all three buildings and turn it into a grassed area until there is another decision made what to with it, but that is down the road.” Schultz said. “The goal was not to create a green space; the goal was to eliminate an eyesore, and it’s a health thing, too — safety. It’s not nice in downtown; it looks like a blighted slum. I think it’s exciting. It’s a good thing.”

Schultz said a purchase agreement is in place for the other two buildings.

“There are some issues with some liens that came up that have to be resolved, but otherwise there will be a deal done, sooner than later,” he said of the two buildings, including one that houses Sweet Memories of Maine, an antique shop. Both are owned by Lois Miller of Solon. “There has to be an environmental assessment done, because who-knows-what’s in the basements of these places and asbestos and stuff like that. I know that that’s already being worked on for the building that’s already been purchased.”

Neither Schultz nor SEDC Executive Director Jim Beaty would say how much the building, most recently the home of Skowhegan Electronics, sold for, but Schultz said it was less than $30,000.

“The purchase of all those properties combined will not be as much as it will cost to get rid of them,” Schultz said.

The former owner, Edward S. Dillingham, and his partner, Eric L. Shupp of Pompano Beach, Fla., purchased the building in 2008 for $17,000.

Dillingham listed the building a year later for $59,000. Jeffrey Hewett, Skowhegan’s director of economic development, said in January the building was on the block for $44,500.

Hewett estimated it might cost at least $400,000 to restore the building. He declined to comment Thursday on the sale.

Dillingham, a Skowhegan native, did not return three telephone calls and a Facebook request for comment on the sale Thursday. Miller has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment. Shupp does not have a listed phone number in Florida and did not return a message sent to him on Facebook.

The Somerset Economic Development Corp. was incorporated in December 1999 as a nonprofit organization. It has a 17-member board of directors, which includes local municipal officials, a county commissioner, a banker, a lawyer and representatives from the tourism, construction, manufacturing, forestry and education sectors.

Schultz, who owns Dirigo Stitching in Skowhegan, said John Witherspoon, president of Skowhegan Savings Bank, and Charles Carpenter of Miles F. Carpenter Insurance Co. were instrumental in sealing the deal for the former electronics building.

“It’s not just Skowhegan Savings Bank, it’s other private citizens in the community who have contributed to this purchase,” he said. “The bank wrote the check, but the money came from private individuals and the bank. I know that John and Chuck are the two that were the most visible in seeing that this happened.”

Witherspoon and Carpenter, along with Chris Perkins of Whittemore’s Real Estate, which handled the deal, were out of town Thursday and unavailable for comment.

Area business leaders said Thursday that removing the blight of the old buildings will be a good thing for downtown Skowhegan.

“That is fantastic,” said Cory King, executive director of the Skowhegan Area Chamber of Commerce. “That’s a best-case scenario. I’ve heard that idea mentioned before, but I wasn’t sure anyone was going to do it. Having green space in the downtown is wonderful and will certainly be more welcoming to people coming down (U.S. Route) 201 south. Every community has a building that’s a bit of an eyesore, and that was really ours.”

Paula Griffin of Griffin’s clothing store, across the street from the buidings, said she is happy to see some action on the buildings but will withhold judgment until she sees what will happen to the space once the buildings are gone.

“They’re definitely an eyesore,” she said. “I’m keeping an open mind. What’s it going to be? I hope in the long run it becomes a functional, operating building and businesses are in there again, because I don’t think green space is how you revitalize your downtown. But the flip side of that, it’s a horrendous eyesore.”

David Hart, of Harmony, who owns the building occupied by Suzie Nails, next to the ones that are to be torn town, said he likes the idea of opening up that corner of downtown. Less than two feet of space separates his building from the one to be taken down.

“It would help us because I will be able to reach that side of the building and do some repairs on it,” he said. “I’m not worried about the demolition; I think they can probably do a good job. I think it’ll be a nice little addition to have a little park there.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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