The city of Belfast has condemned the former Bradbury Manor Nursing Home, a rambling, three-story building with more than 17,000 square feet, located in downtown Belfast. Credit: Abigail Curtis / BDN

BELFAST, Maine — A vacant building in the heart of downtown Belfast is closer to being demolished after city councilors voted unanimously Tuesday to prosecute code violations there.

The city condemned the former Bradbury Manor Nursing Home at 74 High St. in October, according to Bub Fournier, the director of code and planning for the city, who said the rambling, 17,000-square-foot, three-story wooden structure has problems to spare and needs to be taken down.

“I’ve been in a lot of the buildings in Belfast, and they’re not all in tip-top shape,” Fournier said. “But when I set foot in that building, it was just like, ‘Whoa, this is the worst thing we have in the downtown area.”

From left: A “No Trespassing” sign and placards of condemnation mark one of the doors at the former Bradbury Manor Nursing Home at 74 High Street in Belfast; The city of Belfast has condemned the former Bradbury Manor Nursing Home. Credit: Abigail Curtis | BDN; Bub Fournier | City of Belfast

James Constable of Belmont, Massachusetts, the company contact for 74 High Street LLC, which owns the building said the building isn’t dangerous and he doesn’t consent to its demolition.

The building sits on a .27-acre tract valued at $83,100, according to the city’s 2020 real estate tax commitment book, but the building itself is valued at just $6,900. The owner is behind on property taxes, which are $2,097 this year, but is not in arrears, Fournier said. It’s not clear when the building was constructed, but it’s not listed on any historic registry.

The code enforcement department has received “a bunch of” complaints from neighbors, said Fournier, who served as Belfast’s code enforcement officer until September. He saw the extent of the issues when he and former planning director Wayne Marshall did a walkthrough of the building. Photos that Fournier took show crumbling walls and ceilings, water damage and more.

“It’s like a zombie movie film site,” he said. “If you step in the wrong spot, you’re going to end up in the basement.”

The building hasn’t served as a nursing home for more than 20 years, according to Bangor Daily News archives. After it closed in 1997, previous owners may have had trouble selling or redeveloping it because of zoning restrictions — despite its size, the building was in a residential zone that allows only single- and two-family homes. It was eligible for spot rezoning, and at one point, owners discussed demolishing it and building high-end condos on the site, but nothing came of the plan.

Even back in 2005, city officials considered the building to be a headache.

“I view it as a big old hulking building that lends nothing to the character of the area, and which has been little more than a cold, dark tomb in which one of the most popular activities has been vandalism,” Marshall said then.

From left: The city of Belfast has condemned the former Bradbury Manor Nursing Home at 74 High Street in Belfast. Credit: Bub Fournier | City of Belfast

Still, this opinion is not universally shared.

Constable, whose LLC purchased the building in 2012, has told city officials that the building is a personal storage facility, according to the planning director.

“I’ve never seen any storage facility that looks like that,” Fournier said. “He doesn’t share our opinion that the building needs to be demolished. I don’t think he’s being realistic about the possibilities.”

The city will seek a court order for the demolition of the building and ask a judge to assess fines for violations that have not been addressed. It could also pursue relief under the state’s dangerous buildings law, which allows a municipality to hold a hearing to determine if the building can be demolished for safety concerns, among other reasons.

“Hopefully the owner gets it taken care of so we don’t have to go to the courts,” Fournier said.

But if that doesn’t happen, the city likely will put a lien on the property to recoup the costs of demolition, he said, adding that the building’s prominent downtown location is one reason it can’t be ignored.

“People see it more, and I think they tend to comment on it and reach out to us,” Fournier said. “It’s in our core — it’s worth it to us to get it taken care of so we can see new growth there.”

This article has been updated to correct the year that James Constable’s LLC purchased the building and to include a response from him.