BELFAST — Alex and Kendra Brigham, the new owners of 126 Church St., have plans to tear down the existing building, which previously housed a dry cleaning business, and hope to honor Church Street’s historical significance with a new, eco-friendly building.

Earl Mackenzie is heading up the project for the couple. He said the current three-story building is in such disrepair that he does believe it can be brought up to code. Game wardens had to humanely remove about 75 pigeons from the building that had been defecating there. The roof was then sealed so wildlife could not get in.

The new building will be a two-story brick structure whose design evokes the area’s maritime history, but it is still in the early stages of design, Mackenzie said. There will be a garden on the roof and possibly an atrium on the second floor for its apartments.

The building will have commercial or retail space on the first floor and residential units on the second, he said. It is unclear if the apartments will be long- or short-term, but the goal is to have at least one long-term rental unit.

The facade will feature arched windows, a design similar to other buildings on the street, and have a grand entrance with historic photos of the old building, along with other historic photos, as part of the city’s Museum in the Streets.

A rendering of the new building proposed for 126 Church St. in Belfast. Courtesy of Earl Mackenzie

Alex Brigham is from the Boston area, but has summered in Islesboro his whole life and lives there now, Mackenzie said. He founded two organizations that specialize in training companies in ethical behavior. He also has a passion for environmental conservation work, which he has done in places around the world.

He visits Belfast frequently and considers it part of his Maine home, keeping one downtown apartment for his family for when they spend time on the mainland, Mackenzie said, adding that the entrepreneur has been “enchanted” by Belfast’s history and small-town charm.

Church Street used to be one of the most prominent parts of town, Mackenzie said. Brigham wants to recognize that historical significance and help revitalize it.

The current building, erected by Selwyn Thompson in 1905, is a wooden structure that has visibly shifted on its weak foundation, Mackenzie said. It is not considered historically significant and is past its expected lifespan.

Still, it has housed businesses like Thompson’s Manufacturing Co., Maritime Quality Hardware, The Kelley Press and Embee Cleaners, according to Belfast Historical Society and Museum.

The building at 126 Church St. in 1915. Courtesy of The Belfast Historical Society and Museum

The city values the building at $208,800. Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said the property has garnered more interest in his office than any other property in the city over the last decade. He first learned about the project in early September and said he thinks it is a winning proposition for both the city and the property owner.

The proposed new building would be an improvement, he said, adding that it is a reasonable proposal and the initial building design would contribute to the architecture of the district. It is too early to know exactly how much the new building would be valued at, he said. The city is looking forward to seeing a more formal proposal.

City Councilor Mike Hurley looked at the building with a previous potential buyer who had an idea to renovate it, but lost interest after the project’s cost added up to about $1.5 million, he said in an email to The Republican Journal. He welcomes Brigham and Mackenzie’s idea.

“It’s a very problematic building and it would be lovely to save it, but it’s not always possible to do so. Belfast is seeing more and more serious interest and I welcome good plans such as this,” he said.

Mackenzie spoke briefly during Open to the Public at the Nov. 1 City Council meeting about the proposal and Mayor Eric Sanders seemed to support it. “We certainly look forward to being engaged with you moving forward and welcome this news as tremendous news,” Sanders said.

Mackenzie said Brigham is not looking to sell the property for a quick buck after he builds the new building. He wants to keep it and turn it into a place that contributes to the city.

“It’s not the kind of thing he’s turning around to build and sell as a get rich thing,” Mackenzie said. “… This is not something he’s doing as a quick investment, he’s in this for the long term. He looks at Belfast as being part of his Maine residence, too.”

Councilors invited Brigham and Mackenzie to speak at a future meeting. They will meet with the In-Town Design Review Committee this month to discuss the proposal.

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