In January 2016, Marble Block Redevelopment Corp. wrapped up the Phase I abatement, made possible with a $200K cleanup subgrant from Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission, whose funds come from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be disbursed to projects in southern Maine. Credere Associates received the contract for the project after a bidding process required by the EPA and SMPDC. The abatement work in Phase I was extensive because of the amount of asbestos in the basement, the ceiling of the main floor, and the PCBs found in paint used on concrete in the stairwell treads and the basement walls. Brownfields remediation is carefully regulated by the DEP and EPA with a lot of documentation required. Final inspection of the first floor and basement were approved by the DEP and EPA.
Prior to this abatement, no contractors would do any work in the basement because of the mold caused by many years of a wet basement that contained friable asbestos. The environment was pretty toxic. The basement is still very wet as there is a large weep hole in the granite foundation in the rear of the building that leaks continuously. Phase II abatement will address the remainder of the work necessary in the basement.
Next phase is to install a sump pump to help remove some of the water from the ground water leaking in the basement.
The Marble Block is currently owned by the Marble Block Redevelopment Corp. (MBRC), a nonprofit corporation established to abate and redevelop the building.
To date, the funding to get the building to its current state (which is much improved even though it may not appear to be from the outside) has been a combination of:
  • Brownfields Cleanup Sub-Grant from Southern Maine Planning and Development Commission ($200,000)
  • Private foundation funding including the Quimby Family Foundation, Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, and the Morton-Kelly Foundation
  • A community 2013 community fundraiser ($12,000)
  • Biddeford Ball 2014 ($14,400)
  • Biddeford Facade Grant Program ($6K)
  • In-kind contributions made by Caleb Johnson Architects and Joe Hemes Architecture

Use of funds have gone toward:

  • Completion of Part I of the Historic Preservation Application to the National Park Service
  • Demo to the facade coverings to reveal the original building structure
  • Establishing new electrical service to the property
  • Inspections and initial existing conditions drawings
  • Sprinkler inspection
  • Historic preservation consultants
  • Architectural conceptual renderings for new facade
  • Ongoing carrying costs of approximately $10-15K annually (snow removal on roofs, gutter repair, vacant building insurance)

No more work can be done to the facade until Part II of the Historic Preservation Application can be completed (which will cost another $20-30K roughly for final architectural drawings and historic preservation consultants).

We plan on dressing up the front as best we can this spring as whether warms with the minimum of expense. We are awaiting word from the EPA on a 2nd $200K grant to clean up the second and third floors of any lead and asbestos. If successful in receiving this grant, we will again quarantine the building for the period of time it takes to complete the abatement. Following this, we would have a 100% clean/safe building.
In tandem with this abatement process and minor repair work such as the sump pump, we are working on:
  • Financial modeling for the development, based on projected uses of both commercial space and Engine’s space. Because this is currently planned to be a Historic Tax Credit project, a nonprofit can occupy <50% of the 18,000 sf. Engine is looking to lease space itself in the development, and attract commercial tenants to generate rent revenue to support the operating costs of such a large structure. Financial modeling should be done in the next two weeks. The fact that commercial rents are still very low on Main Street is not helpful to this type of project. We will have a substantial capital campaign heading our way in the very near future. The financial modeling will take into account the tax credits which MBRC or Engine cannot use as a nonprofit but will need to syndicate (read as, “to pay very expensive tax credit lawyers”) to the open market to some entity that has a tax credit liability.
  • Structural analysis of the building to determine the integrity of the shell, specifically the marble facade. We already know that one of the 3 roofs is not stable and will impact construction costs.