ROCKLAND — The new owners of 500 Main Street are already receiving positive feedback for their renovation and business proposal despite still needing to return before the Rockland Planning Board in January.
Robert Arena and Valerie Lansburg are partnering under the name of NE2, LLC to renovate the two-story downtown building at the corner of Main and Summer streets into a multi-use facility. Lansburg has been contacted by three potential renters of the two studio-like apartments and one full-size apartment destined for the second level. She’s also heard from wedding planners who are excited about the possibility of a new wedding venue in the area.
Under the proposal, “The Sanctuary” will have an event center, three apartments, one 1,790 sq ft restaurant, and a 31-sq ft retail space that utilizes two levels. An elevator will be installed to connect the floors and the basement.
The building was erected in 1836 as a Baptist church when the land was a part of Thomaston, and remained a Baptist church until 1999. In 1902 a clock and clock tower were blown off in a hurricane. And, in the 1950s major renovations took place, tearing down the renovations done after 1902. After 1999, the building became a pen factory, then Ben Pasternak, then Scrimshaws medical marijuana dispensary.
In November of 2022, NE2 submitted an application for the new facility, and in the last few weeks a few of the details have changed, including the number of apartments, which initially was proposed as two units.
The plan no longer proposes to have the building stick out over the sidewalk on Main Street, in the right of way, since the Department of Transportation stated that it would not approve the occupied space hanging over Route 1, according to Chelsea Lipham, of Chelsea Lipham Architecture and Design LLC, during the Dec. 6, 2022 meeting of the Rockland Planning Board.
The outside front entryway at the ground level, which is also the property line, will be enclosed. And, in order to accommodate all of the intended uses, the owners propose two additions to the building. One would be along Main Street, and the other along Summer Street in order to “basically bring the building out to the street line and continue the façade all the way across the building,” said Lipham.
As for people waiting outside in line for events, Lipham proposed making the nearby narrow Summer Street curbing into a real sidewalk and allowing the event line to wrap up Summer Street. Once inside, the event attendees would use the former church area for their programs. A small bar and a caterer’s kitchen are also proposed, with all liability placed on the caterers.
The initial proposal, in regards to the events center, planned to accommodate upwards of 600 people. That number has since been reduced to 425, though max capacity can be up to 496, according to Code. However, 496 is the equivalent of packing people in very tightly.
“Most likely, the max would be 400 at most,” said Lipham.
Different capacities will also be allotted for the other spaces. During the Planning Board meeting, an estimate of 100 was provided for the restaurant, and numbers varied for the retail space.
In addition to using utilities that already exist in the structure, the architects are proposing to replace the overhead powerlines with underground lines. They would also like to connect into a stormwater main on Summer Street. Lipham told the Planning Board that the structural architecture would make conditions in the area better. The area is surrounded by pavement, and Lipham said the new additions would have flat roofs and would be tied into storm drains that would flow into the stormwater main.
One concern mentioned by Planning Board member Carol Maines is that of parking. The State of Maine said “absolutely not” in respect to sharing Ferry Terminal parking. When Maines asked during the proposal meeting if the lodging establishment near Summer Street would share their parking lot, Arena said he hadn’t approached the hotel because he knows the area very well.
“In the winter, yeah, that would work,” said Arena. “But anytime during the summer, the parking lots are jammed.”
The group discussed alternative solutions, such as shuttling ticket holders to and from Oceanside High School in a similar fashion to what is done each summer during the Maine Lobster Festival. However, Arena reiterated more than once that he would know more after six months into the building’s business about where the successes were and what further accommodations he would need.
Still, returning to the nostalgia of the old church, Arena is hoping to add some stained glass.
“Give it a dramatic entrance,” he said.
Reach Sarah Thompson at email@example.com