Only four years have passed since The Renaissance nursing home on Pool Street in Biddeford closed its doors, but the building looks like it has been abandoned for much longer.
Ragged plastic sheets billow in broken windows and shattered glass glints in the tangled grass below. Weeds have sprouted in the cracks in the driveway and around the edges of the building. Rusted chains are looped over the handles to all the doors and across both driveways.
A peek inside a window reveals peeling paint, sterile hospital furniture, and a microwave, its door left open. Wheelchairs, metal beds, and armchairs are stacked in haphazard piles inside the basement and in a small, unlocked outbuilding.
The previous occupant, First Atlantic Healthcare, left these items behind in 2005 when it moved to a new location on Ferry Road in Saco, almost directly across the Saco River from The Renaissance. First Atlantic’s new facility replaced both the aging Renaissance and another nursing home the company owned in Sanford.
According to Pam Brown, the administrator of Seal Rock, First Atlantic’s new long-term care center, the Pool Street facility was “a lovely old building” that “ran very well” up until the move. However, changing standards for patient care — such as a preference for private rooms over shared rooms, and a need for handicapped-accessible bathrooms — convinced First Atlantic that The Renaissance no longer served the nursing home’s needs. “Even though it was built as a hospital, it wasn’t set up for us,” Brown said.
Company officials at First Atlantic’s Portland headquarters did not respond to repeated requests for comment about their plans for the building, but a trip to the Biddeford Code Enforcement Office revealed their intention to tear it down.
In 2000, Omnipoint Communications, an affiliate of T-Mobile, constructed antennas on the building’s roof. Six years later, First Atlantic notified Omnipoint of its plans to demolish the structure. Because the loss of the antennas would create a gap in cell phone service, Omnipoint applied for, and was granted, a permit to construct a new, larger antenna in the building’s place. But that antenna was ultimately unnecessary because the demolition never took place.
So rather than being reduced to a pile of rubble, The Renaissance sits vacant, its paint slowly curling into piles that collect on the floors. A wasp nest hangs above a doorway and burned-out spotlights on the building’s corners trail rusty electrical cables.
In its current state, the building’s tax-assessed value is $131,900, but the eight acres of riverfront property it occupies are worth far more — almost a million dollars. It’s unclear why First Atlantic has yet to tear down the building or sell the property for redevelopment.
Long before it was abandoned, The Renaissance was known as the Notre Dame hospital. Constructed in 1951, Notre Dame merged with Webber Hospital in 1969 and began to specialize in long-term care, while Webber handled acute, obstetric and emergency cases. Webber eventually moved on to a larger, more modern facility, but the Pool Street building continued to house patients in need of geriatric care. (First Atlantic was the second of two nursing-home companies to occupy the building since it ceased to be used as a hospital in 1979.)
Like so many of its former occupants, The Renaissance has settled into a period of quiet decline — an appropriate, if unsightly, fate.
— Emily Guerin
About this series…
That’s My Dump! is dedicated to investigating run-down and/or abandoned properties in the Portland area. Stumped by a dump in your neighborhood? E-mail our new dump hunter, Emily Guerin, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe she’ll poke around that one next.