A Millinocket shopping plaza has sold for more than double its assessed value to a New Hampshire real estate investment company. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A Millinocket shopping plaza has sold for more than double its assessed value to a New Hampshire real estate investment company hoping to revitalize retail in the former mill town.

Northeast Living LLC said this week that it had purchased the Northern Shopping Plaza at 800 Central St. in Millinocket for $1.6 million. At 82,505 square feet, the plaza can hold nine businesses, according to SVN The Masiello Group, which brokered the plaza’s sale on Northeast Living’s behalf.

The property’s most recent assessed value was $780,400 in September 2020, according to Millinocket assessment records. The plaza was last owned by JLP LLC, based in Larchmont, New York.

“We think it has a lot of potential,” said Brian Dano, a commercial adviser at SVN The Masiello Group. “We looked all over the nation — Georgia, Oklahoma — and landed here. We’re chasing returns wherever they may be.”

While home sales and prices in Maine have risen during the pandemic, many commercial properties were expected to drop in value this year as retailers, restaurants and hotels saw sales decline during the COVID-19 pandemic, making Northeast Living’s purchase of the Northern Shopping Plaza stand out.

Dano said that next steps at the retail plaza would include redoing the roof, making electrical repairs and performing other deferred maintenance.

The plaza is currently home to Millinocket House of Pizza, Dollar Tree, Creative Office Solutions and Tractor Supply Co., according to Dano and town assessment records.

Dano said the new owner identified a need for a clothing retailer tenant and planned on bringing in both national chains and local businesses, but said he couldn’t name any specific tenants while leasing talks were ongoing.

Since the Great Northern Paper Co. mill’s closure in 2008, Millinocket has struggled to revitalize its local economy. In June, Our Katahdin, which owns the former paper mill site, announced that it had leased part of the site to Nautilus Data Technologies to host a $300 million data center that would eventually employ 30 people. It marked the first new tenant the organization had attracted to the defunct mill site.

Northeast Living owner Uri Peer said he was drawn to the area because of its proximity to Katahdin and Baxter State Park, and the people “moving there for creation and investment.” He had researched potential investment properties, and found that retail would “have more potential” than residential properties.

Peer was specifically drawn to the shopping plaza because it was the only one of its kind locally. Brick-and-mortar retail has taken a hit in recent years with the rise of online shopping, a hit that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated. Despite that, Peer said, he believed retail would bounce back and that people would want to do more in-person shopping.  

“I’m not just servicing that town, but the entire area,” he said. “The closest shopping plaza is in Bangor. If I can provide the services to all neighboring towns, everyone will benefit. Millinocket is a good place but I’m looking wider.”

Lia Russell is a reporter on the city desk for the Bangor Daily News. Send tips to LRussell@bangordailynews.com.