BELFAST, Maine – Penobscot Community Health Care, the largest state-qualified health center in Maine, has signed a contract to purchase the old Bank of America complex in Belfast.
If the deal is closed, it will mean the Seaport Community Health Center will move from the 11,800-square-foot space it rented nearby to one of the five buildings on the 142-acre campus. The move will allow the 8,000 patient health center to more than double in size, according to Kate Carlisle, director of missionary engagement at Penobscot Community Health Center.
“We are very happy about it. Our whole goal is to provide people with health care, ”she said on Wednesday. “We are bursting at the seams in our current practice. We had to find an accessible, affordable space [and big enough to grow]. ”
The health center offers primary care, family medicine, mental health services, convalescent services, a pharmacy, and more. Given the projected increasing need for community health care, there is a need to find more space, she said.
The building, with almost 320,000 square meters of office space, was originally constructed in the late 1990s as a call center for the credit giant MBNA. The company employed approximately 2,000 people in Belfast at its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Bank of America acquired MBNA in 2005 and moved into the complex, but its workforce was much smaller and it didn’t take up all of the space. At some point the bank sold the property to STAG IV Belfast LLC, part of the Boston real estate investment company Stag Capital.
Although Bank of America, which had 800 employees in 2018, remains one of Waldo County’s largest employers, it rents space to run its operations from STAG IV.
The bank is expected to continue operating in the same location when the deal between the health center and STAG IV comes about.
“They would still be there,” said Carlisle. “As far as we know and nothing is certain, the idea would be that they exist.”
The health center does not provide any information about the purchase price and is still working out the details of the financing. It has not yet been decided whether PCHC would look for tenants to fill some of the remaining free space in the buildings, she said.
Thomas Kittredge, Belfast City’s director of economic development, said city officials are positive about the health centre’s potential purchase of the property, which has been a few years on the roller coaster.
In 2018, STAG IV and the City of Belfast reached an agreement after a year-long dispute over the property’s property tax valuation. In 2015, Belfast valued the property at $ 41 million, but the appraisal dropped to $ 11.2 million last year. The investment firm remains one of the city’s largest real estate taxpayers, paying $ 261,039 in 2020.
Two years ago, the real estate investment company attempted to auction the property with bids starting at $ 1.8 million, but its reserve was not met and it was not sold.
That year, Regional School District 71 announced that it was considering the possibility of purchasing three of the buildings for use as a consolidated elementary school. But in mid-May that option was no longer on the table after the buildings were signed to another buyer. It wasn’t immediately clear whether this buyer was PCHC.
“We enjoy working with them,” Kittredge said of the PCHC. “We are excited about the opportunity of a new owner who can use the facility in a new and broader way than recently, and we are ready to partner with them.”
Carlisle said the health center hopes to finalize the real estate deal by the end of the year. Thereafter, renovations would have to be carried out before the Seaport Community Health Center could move into one of the buildings.
“We don’t expect any delays in service or changes in providers or anything like that,” she said. “We want it to run as smoothly as possible for our patients.”