Tax Credits

Union Hall, Rockport

Built in 1858, Union Hall was once an anchor of downtown activity on Rockport’s Main Street.  Designed with open retail spaces on the first floor, a civic or fraternal hall on the second, and offices or living spaces on the third level, it remained remarkably intact, though much deteriorated.  It is notable for its mansard roof, which was added at a later date.

Decades of deferred maintenance combined with exposure to the elements had caused structural deterioration and unsafe conditions, which in turn led to underutilization and vacancy.

When Leucadia National Corporation invested in Rockport’s downtown, revitalization was its motivation. Having completed a historic tax credit project on Shepherd Block in 2010, its goals for Union Hall were to accomplish the following:

  • Save a valued building from collapse while maintaining as many historic materials and character-defining features as possible.
  • Create a self-sustaining economic engine that would fund the rehabilitation by providing a mixed-use property to keep downtown vital.
  • Provide an essential Third Place (neither home nor work) where villagers and visitors could meet and build community, while overlooking the harbor.

The complete rehabilitation included structural remediation to wood framing, roof repair, all new mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, masonry repointing, restoration of windows and doors, and interior finishes. A new elevator and two stairways were all worked into the existing building envelope allowing for better appearance and eligibility for tax credits.

The rear exterior brick masonry wall had separated from the structural system and had to be immediately removed and rebuilt to prevent collapse. A special Part 2 Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit Application for Emergency Structural Repair was submitted by tax credit consultants and project designers Lachman Architects & Planners and was approved by MHPC and the NPS.

This project demonstrates how Maine’s 19th century buildings can be rehabilitated to meet 21st century expectations for function, reduced energy consumption, and user comfort. Today, Union Hall houses The Salt Water Farm Restaurant at ground level; an attractively rehabilitated Community Hall on the second floor; an elegant residence on the third floor; and a lower level, which offers light filled commercial space for another tenant.

Union Hall --once vacant and in poor repair--will reinvigorate downtown Rockport with its ADA accessible, mixed reuse spaces. For this accomplishment, Maine Preservation is pleased to present Rockport Properties, LLC and the Union Hall project team with a 2014 Honor Award for Rehabilitation.

Hyacinth Place, Westbrook

The St. Hyacinth School and Convent was built by the Catholic Church in in the Frenchtown neighborhood of Westbrook.  The parish developed in response to the influx of French Canadian mill workers during the mid-nineteenth century. Constructed in 1881, the parochial school was for many years a focal point for Westbrook’s immigrant community.  

The school building was replaced in 1893 with a new structure designed by Coburn & Son of Lewiston.  A convent, designed by Timothy O’Connell of Boston, was added in 1921. The completed complex grew to include a church, rectory, and garage.

The parochial school closed in 1974 and became a Center for Religious Education.  The convent was converted to a House of Prayer.  But after 10 years, use of the buildings decreased.  

In 2011, the buildings were found eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and, in turn, qualified for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.  Avesta Housing, with Kevin Bunker and Jim Hatch of Developers Collaborative, LLC, began the planning process with Archetype Architects of Portland.   The creation of additional housing in an existing residential area would both benefit the residents of Westbrook and utilize these important local buildings.

Virtually vacant at the beginning of the project, the school building had suffered deterioration caused by years of roof leaks, which led to slow rotting of many framing members, buckled wood floors, and weakened plaster walls. Investigation of the school showed that it had also been burned in a fire and not properly repaired.  The convent suffered similar deterioration, including masonry that was spalling severely.           

In planning and design, the challenge was to retrofit large classrooms and small nun’s quarters to meet modern residential requirements. During the rehabilitation project, completed by Portland Builders, the major scope of work included exterior masonry repairs on both buildings, window restoration and replacement, and retention and maintenance of a large inventory of historic trim elements and pressed metal ceilings.

The two buildings on the site were rehabilitated to include 23 housing units. In the school building, the basic plan was retained along with central corridors and stair towers. The convent offered a more complicated existing plan, but was modified without the loss of important character-defining spaces.

The rehabilitation of the St. Hyacinth School and Convent created affordable housing within an existing residential area and utilized historic buildings once central to the community there. For this outstanding work, Maine Preservation is pleased to present the St. Hyacinth project team with a 2014 Honor for Adaptive Use.