SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Plans for the future of the former Maine National Guard Armory continued to crystallize Tuesday night with the Planning Board‘s unanimous decision to forward the land use proposal to the City Council for review.
The recommendation includes altering the property’s zoning from a Residential District to a Conditional Armory Zone.
Topsham-based Priority Real Estate Group acquired the property from the city in late November for $700,000 with the intention of transforming the World War II-era structure into a gas station and convenience store.
Rather than demolish the ramshackle structure at 682 Broadway and build anew, Priority is aiming to preserve it.
“What we really want to do is celebrate this building, preserve it, bring it back to life,” David Latulippe, vice president of Priority, told the board at the Tuesday meeting.
The facade of the structure will “stay just the way it is today,” Latulippe said.
The proposal calls for integrating the commercial nature of the building within the surrounding residential area. Typical gas-station features such as flashing neon signs, flood lights and audible advertising would be avoided.
Five Irving gas pumps will be located behind the armory, minimizing their visibility from the road, Latulippe said. A tall, slender Irving sign would be erected at the front of the property.
The convenience store and cafe would be housed on the first floor, and usable space for businesses would be available on the second floor.
“I’m pleased with the effort to accommodate the sentimentality that the city has for this building … and to make use out of it,” said board member Linda Boudreau. “I think this is going to be a destination business.”
Several members of the public expressed concern about increased traffic.
“For us, it’ll be the end of the quiet Sunday morning,” said Dennis Gilbert, whose property on Hudson Road abuts the armory parcel. “We’re also concerned about air quality.”
Gilbert said he and his wife don’t oppose the project, but they do understand the reality.
“It’s going to make profound changes in the life of our neighborhood.”