The Engineer's House was built as part of the Bangor Water Works, designed in 1892 by the prominent architect Wilfred E. Mansur. After years of public service, this impressive complex stood vacant for 30 years until a subsidiary of Shaw House, Inc. determined in 2002 that the main building in the complex could be rehabilitated into 35 low income apartments. In acquiring the complex Shaw House agreed that it would later rehabilitate the engineer's house, which at the time it moved on to a new foundation and installed a new roof.
Following the heroic rehabilitation of the Bangor Water Works, Maine Preservation presented an Honor Award in 2008 to Shaw House for the apartment complex. Shaw House had at that point just come under new management.
The Engineer's House had sat vacant since 2008, though well protected by the recent roof and foundation. When Shaw House determined that it could not rehabilitate the Engineer’s House, in 2015 it asked for permission from the Bangor Historic Preservation Commission to demolish it. The Commission asked instead for Shaw House to offer the house and land for sale for $1, and Shaw advertised the property for sale in print. An architecture and engineering firm experienced in historic preservation determined that the house was sound and, in concert with an experienced and qualified developer of historic buildings, sought to acquire the building. An agreement was reached with both Shaw House and the City of Bangor, providing a clear path to rehabilitation.
But, instead of abiding by this agreement, negotiating or facilitating the sale of the property, Shaw House began to throw up roadblocks. First, Shaw House stated it had suddenly discovered it did not have the right to sell the building, despite presenting no such evidence. Then Shaw House stated it would only agree to a short-term lease and that the purchasers would not only have to show financing but also have approvals for historic tax credits. Despite these roadblocks, the purchasers remained determined and secured financing. At the last minute, Shaw suddenly required a $15,000 a year lease payment – this on the land and parking that they had supposedly agreed to provide for sale for $1. It is hard to look at these facts and not conclude that Shaw House was not negotiating in good faith.
As soon as the Purchasers balked at the new lease payment, Shaw went to the Building Inspector and hastily received permission to demolish the building, likely the last existing shingle-style building by Mansur, which it did immediately – on a Sunday.
This leads to a lot of questions:
· Did Shaw House make every effort to live up to the commitment it made to rehabilitate or allow others to rehabilitate the building?
· How did Shaw House pay for the most experienced historic tax credit lawyer in Maine to both testify in favor of its application before the Historic Commission and then negotiate and place conditions on the sale that couldn't be met under the law and were simply unachievable?
· The last roadblock Shaw House threw up that broke the deal was the requirement for a $15,000 a year lease on the house. What economic return will Shaw House get from spending additional money to demolish the house for a now vacant lot?
· How will Bangor make up for the loss in construction jobs and ongoing property tax payments that this development would have provided to the city?
· What other plans does Shaw house now have for its underused parking lot?
We are shocked and disappointed by the lack of good faith shown by Shaw House, ignoring the commitment they made to preservation and economic development in the City of Bangor.