This month we get to play my favorite parlor game: Gentrification or Suburbanization? Can you guess what’s happening to the old farmhouse at 366 Main St. in Gorham? Guess correctly and you win! (Prizes not available, due to high cost of rent.)
The property in play was built around 1800 and has been empty since 2006, when previous owner Charles Hannaford III passed away. The foundation of what was once a magnificent old barn can be seen in the backyard, among old bathtubs and demolition debris.
Through any of several busted-out windows one can view the trashed interior: ripped and broken furniture, abandoned appliances, rolls of dirty carpet. The back door leading into the dismal basement was wide open, but I didn’t need the threat of a trespassing charge to persuade me not to enter.
Gorham code enforcement officer Freeman Abbott told me he had the electric meter and assorted wiring removed from the property, with assistance from the Gorham Fire Department, a couple years ago, after inspectors found a host of safety violations. Zoning administrator David Galbraith said the house was also officially declared unsafe for occupancy a few years back, after it was discovered that water was pouring in from the roof.
Restoration of this once stately Main Street manse, which has stood since the Jefferson Administration, is not an option in this game, and there are no town ordinances that protect this historic structure. Remember, this is Gentrification or Suburbanization?, not This Old House. Last year, an outfit called PTG Investment Trust acquired the property for $125,000 (about $33,000 less than its tax-assessed value) and filed an application to build a nine-unit condominium project there. (If you guessed gentrification, you just earned a point!)
The agent of the trust, Andrew Morrell, didn’t respond to my inquiries, but the minutes of recent Gorham Planning Board meetings reveal that PTG amended its plans after its initial application drew objections from neighbors and some members of the board. (Go back one space.)
The investors’ revised plan envisions three single-family condos behind two commercial buildings located along the street and marketed as space for professional offices. There’d be apartments above the offices and parking around back. The new application was making its way through the approval process as this issue went to press.
With its combination of suburban-style office development and small-town condo chic, this project represents both gentrification and suburbanization. So everyone’s a winner, right?
— Patrick Banks