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Funding sought to save Main St building

June 11, 2014
LANCASTER — District I Executive Councilor Joe Kenney came to town on Friday morning to pursue his mission of continuing to work on projects that his predecessor, the late Councilor Ray Burton, had begun but been unable to finish before his death in Nov. 2013.

"Ray left this one in the queue," Kenney explained, referring to Burton's effort to help Dick MacKillop of Lancaster find financing that would allow him to rehabilitate the historic three-story building that he owns at 101 Main Street.

Kenney also asked newly appointed executive director Taylor Caswell of the Community Development Finance Authority (CDFA) to drive up from Concord to provide his expert opinion on the whether or not "a funding stack" could be assembled from various public and private sources to bring address all the building's needs, including bringing it up to today's codes and making it energy efficient.

"Typically at CDFA we will see projects with five to 10 different sources of funds," explained Caswell, a Littleton native. "But none of it happens quickly."

Lancaster selectman Rep. Leon Rideout also toured the building with MacKillop and then accompanied Kenny, Caswell, and the owner when they talked with Cathy Conway, vice president of economic development for the Northern Community Investment Corp. (NCIC), at her office in the former Lancaster National Bank to tap her knowledge of how financing might be secured.

MacKillop envisions making the first-floor retail space somewhat smaller, allowing two rentable offices to be created, and also renovating an existing handicapped accessible two-bedroom apartment that is now occupied. He would like to create a number of one- and two-bedroom apartments for workforce housing on the second and third floors. The second floor is now partially occupied, but the third floor has no existing apartments.

The building already has sprinkler and smoke detection systems plus energy-efficient replacement windows.

The planned demolition of two small sheds will add a number of dedicated parking spaces for tenants. A bus stop outside the building would allow someone to live at 101 Main Street without a vehicle, especially since it is within easy walking distance of Shaw's Supermarket.

By noon, Caswell said that his preliminary assessment was that although he could certainly make no guarantees, he thought that the proposed project might be a "reasonable" fit for a private-public partnership.

The building once housed the company founded in 1868 by pharmacist Parker J. Noyes, the man who brought the first electricity to Lancaster in 1885 and invented some of the first automated tablet manufacturing and coating machinery.

An 8- by 8-foot freight elevator remains on site, and the owner can point out where the laboratory was and where a conveyor belt was located.

Back in 1982, MacKillop bought a half-interest in the then-thriving Parker's Jewelry store from his much-older sister, Peggy MacKillop Brown, who had bought the place in the late 60s. He inherited it when his sister, then a widow, died in July 2011 and ran it for nearly two years. MacKillop closed the store last summer, however, when he recognized that Family Dollar, that features low prices and little service, would put him out of business when it opened a new larger store just up the street.

Now he is concentrating on finding a way to keep the building intact — part of the distinctive fabric of the county seat's distinctive Main Street.

The zoning changes that were adopted at this year's town meeting have boosted interest in the south end of the historic street.

MacKillop said, "I don't want to see this building demolished to make a parking lot."

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