The Northeastland Hotel has been part of Presque Isle's Main Street for decades. Ignite PI, a nonprofit development group, is working to acquire and operate the hotel. Credit: David Marino / The Star-Herald

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A $250,000 Community Development Block Grant application could pave the way for a nonprofit community development organization to acquire and operate an historic Presque Isle hotel.

The Presque City Council unanimously approved the grant application for the further development of Ignite PIs Northeastland Hotel project during Wednesday’s city council meeting.

The grant is vital to the success of the project, Ignite PI Director of Community Innovation Clint Deschene said.

Ignite PI, a not-for-profit community development organization, is currently raising funds to purchase the city’s historic hotel, in which they intend to develop a downtown community co-workspace, entrepreneurial hub and innovation center as well as operate the hotel and restaurant.

“We will be working towards and hopefully announcing soon the acquisition of the Northeastland Hotel, which is where we’re going to be locating our co-work space,” Deschene said. “And with this grant we’re going to be able to utilize those funds [along with] a 50 percent match of our own money to acquire all the furniture and equipment that we need to reopen as a rejuvenated hotel/restaurant and event center after COVID.”

Several city council members applauded the initiative as an important step in the city’s economic development push.

“Clint, I want to thank you and the crew. We’ve got a family store right in downtown and it’s been a really fun place to do business and I feel like as a community we’re just so close,” City Councilor Mike Chasse said.

“But we need one more major thing to happen, like one more major retail store and a nice restaurant, and we’re going to be there … you could be that spark that gets us up over the hump,” Chasse said.

The city must now file the grant application with the state.

A state review panel will assign points to all the economic development grant applications received based on several criteria, including community job creation needs and how the project will help alleviate the existing problem. The applicant must explain the number of jobs their program will create or retain, and how low- to moderate-income individuals will have access to these jobs, according to the state application guidelines.

The highest scoring applicants will be invited to move on to the project development phase that must be completed within six months.

The Northeastland Hotel project is currently contingent upon Ignite PI raising the funds to purchase the hotel for an undisclosed amount. In March, the organization announced their intent to acquire the property from the Hedrich family.

At that time, Deschene said they were on track to have the purchase completed by mid-May. At Wednesday’s meeting, Deschene said the acquisition goal was met, but Ignite PI is only about halfway to the capital campaign goal.

Ignite PI has been awarded several grants and loans, including a $1.5 million commitment from the Rodney and Mary Barton Smith Family Foundation to assist with the acquisition. Previously, the foundation awarded the nonprofit organization a $300,000 grant for startup expenses.

Ignite PI is in the final stages of completing an application for a loan from the Northern Maine Development Commission. The process is about 90 percent complete, coming up on a May 14 deadline.

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli

Kathleen Phalen Tomaselli is a reporter covering the Presque Isle area. Over the years, she has covered crime, investigations, health, politics and local government, writing for the Washington Post, the...