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Odd Fellows has sold again ... maybe
NORWAY — The historic Odd Fellows building at 380 Main Street in Norway, has been empty for a while. In 2008, the building was purchased by Harvey and Dawn Solomon under New Horizon Capital Investment.
In 2009 its Main Street facade was redone to much fanfare. Less than a year later, Dawn Solomon was arrested, charged and ultimately convicted for $4 million in fraud against MaineCare. Harvey Solomon allegedly left town.
From then on, the building has sat like a wallflower, forlorn, sporting its fresh face and unfinished interior.
The vacant building is considered by Norway Downtown to be an important link to the economic health of the downtown business district.
In 2011, it, along with eight other properties owned by Solomon, were put up for auction. Mortgage holder TD Banknorth bid $89,000 to get it after attempts to sell it to some two dozen bidders failed to elicit more than a $30,000 offer.
Then, a Norway businessman attempted to purchase the building from TD Bank, but that sale fell through.
This week it got another invitation to dance.
Deal or no deal?
David Joseph of Dirigo Industries has made an offer of $50,000 on the building which was accepted with a closing scheduled for December 31. However, the offer is contingent on Joseph being able to get paperwork done by the Solomons. Without that there is no deal.
"I need the engineering plans and permits ... produced," said Joseph, referring to building permits and plans that should have been filed with the Code Enforcement Officer at the Norway town office. "I need those documents so I do not have to 'reverse engineer' the building," he explained.
"To reverse engineer, I would have to take core samples and ultrasound to see how much re-bar is there ... without that I can't calculate dead loads and live loads ... the building would be uninsurable with them."
Joseph indicated he might be unwilling to undertake the project without the documentation as the reverse engineering would cost more than the engineering plans for what he wants to do with the building.
Consequently, the entire plan could come to a screeching halt.
"If there is no paperwork," he said, "it's a dead deal."
The current Code Enforcement Officer, Joelle Corey-Whitman, told Joseph and the planning board September 13, that she has searched all the files she inherited from her predecessor, Jeff Van Decker, and could find nothing.
"There's nothing on file," she said, "and believe me, I've searched."
If the documentation can be found, and if the deal is closed, Joseph plans to turn the building into residential.
"The storefronts would become a lobby and that would allow me to create two handicapped units on the first floor," he said.
However, he continued, "I am open to leasing the storefronts for business, although there seems to be quite a bit of commercial space for lease in Norway and Paris."
Joseph is still waiting on multiple bids on the basic structural work that needs to be done prior to deciding how he will configure the building.
"There's structural work on the back two corners, a new roof," he said, "about $500,000 to $600,000 worth."
Dirigo Industries, a real estate holding company, is owned by Joseph and his wife Marcy. Joseph attended Oxford Hills High School through his junior year and then relocated to Washington state for his senior year.
He attended California Maritime College and he and his Canadian wife ran a tugboat company for the past two decades in Washington which hauled scrap metal between British Columbia and Tacoma, WA. They sold the company last February.
Joseph's background is as a merchant marine and in construction. The couple has just completed the purchase of the Yankee Microwave building across from Harrison Elementary School.
They plan to use this space as their shop where they would stage and do all the projects – hands-on work – in a heated space for the building restoration.
The Josephs live in Waterford with their two children.