PORTLAND, Maine — A vacant building is an eyesore to some people, but to neighbors in Portland's Nason's Corner neighborhood, it's an opportunity for change.
Residents are trying to revitalize the Xtra Mart Convenience Store and gas station on Brighton Avenue, across from Breakwater School. The evening of Monday, July 8, all ideas were laid out on the table.
"When we first saw it, we were like, 'This is an amazing space. I wonder if anything is going to open here?'" Alexandra Morrow recalled her reaction to the Xtra Mart when she moved to the neighborhood last September. "At the same time, we thought that the property was not for sale."
The Xtra Mart went up for sale in January, and the asking price is $400,000.
In June, Morrow banded together with other neighbors to make up a comprehensive survey of what people would like to see the space become. Morrow said in about a month's time, they've gotten over 387 responses.
Monday's meeting was designed so neighbors from all around Nason's Corner could talk about the survey and provide additional input. A lot of people want to turn the space into a place for community and socialization.
"I really like the idea of a place where people can walk and sit and have a cup of coffee together and have your dog with you," one resident said.
Other people want to add another shining star to Maine's growing restaurant scene.
"We need a place to eat here," one neighbor declared. "I refuse to go into town. I will not pay an extra 20 dollars to park -- I don't care how good a restaurant is!"
Folks were pretty much in agreement, though -- what they don't want is another gas station, or a liquor store or bar.
There are a couple of concerns. Some residents are worried traffic could keep buyers away, while others think some of the renovation suggestions could be too seasonal.
Morrow says the next steps will be to take what she's learned from the survey and Monday's discussion and create a proposal, which will be reviewed at another neighborhood meeting.
"The proposal is going to be taken and shopped around, essentially to potential investors and developers, to say, 'This is what our community is looking for -- are you willing to get on board and invest?'"
Though Xtra Mart was the primary site in discussion Monday evening, there are also other sites Morrow says people would like to see revamped. One of the most discussed is a old Rite Aid pharmacy site along Brighton Avenue, which has also been vacant for years.