Sean Ireland hopes to redevelop 31 Centre Street into a mix of commercial and residential space. Kathleen O’Brien / The Times Record

A building in downtown Bath that has sat vacant for nearly 10 years could soon become home to both commercial space and housing units.

Sean Ireland — principal of the Portland-based Windward real estate development group and owner of the Grant Building — will approach the Planning Board with an application Tuesday.

Ireland did not return requests for comment Monday.

According to the application, Ireland hopes to rehabilitate the ground floor and lower level of the building into “a mixture of commercial uses.”

If his plan is approved, Ireland would also renovate the existing second and third stories of the building, which were previously used as retail and office space, into four residential units with two units on each floor.

Ireland’s plan also includes installing 80 solar panels on the roof that would produce 28% of the building’s annual electrical load, according to his application.


Ireland wrote he “seeks projects that are measured by the success of their economic and community development impact.”

Last year, the city estimated the property, located at 31 Centre St. across the street from Byrnes Irish Pub, to be valued at $536,100.

The roughly 21,000-sqare-foot Grant Building has been vacant since R.M. Tate’s Department Store left in 2014.

According to the city’s assessor database, the building was constructed in 1910 and held the W.T. Grant Department Store until the business moved to Brunswick in the 1950s.

Sagadahock Real Estate Association, owned by John Morse IV and his family, purchased the building in 1971, according to city records. Sagadahock sold the building, which included about a dozen parking spaces, last year to Windward Properties for $309,000.

Morse said the Grant Building has proven to be difficult to rent because it’s large and few businesses can afford to rent and fill even one floor. Morse said he likes Ireland’s plan to break the space up into smaller, affordable pieces.


“I think at this point he finally has something that will work, be useful, uses the whole building, and doesn’t demand a lot of parking. I think it’s going to work,” said Morse. “In the long run, I think it’ll be a good investment and add to the downtown. That lower part of Centre Street has needed a little help to keep foot traffic up and keep it viable.”

Morse also said he hopes Ireland’s plan brings young people into downtown Bath.

Though the Grant Building has remained vacant for eight years, it did temporarily host Beacon Park, an indoor community center created to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, last winter.

Downtown revitalization group Main Street Bath partnered with the city, Sagadahock and Ireland to bring the park to life. A few tables and chairs, free Wi-Fi, and an air filtration system were added to the building’s ground floor, and it was opened to the public to be a place where people can safely eat their take-out, warm up between errands and visit with friends safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The planning board meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Bath City Hall.

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