Rising from the ashes: New office building brings eye appeal

 

 

 

 

HERE STOOD A GENERAL STORE — Since the first of its three structures was built in 1837 in Lovell Village, this building, destroyed by fire in February, has seen many owners and served many uses. But there was always one constant, at least until the mid-1980s — here stood a general store.

HERE STOOD A GENERAL STORE — Since the first of its three structures was built in 1837 in Lovell Village, this building, destroyed by fire in February, has seen many owners and served many uses. But there was always one constant, at least until the mid-1980s — here stood a general store.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

CENTER LOVELL — It was the last link to a time past, when a single building served as the centerpiece of Lovell’s business and social life.

When the old Kimball & Walker General Store in Lovell Village burned down in February, it tore a hole in the town’s identity that left the whole town grieving, and wondering what, if anything, could ever take its place.

Well, now they know. And by all accounts, residents of this 1,000-member year round community couldn’t be happier.

With startling speed, the gaping cellar hole that was all that was left of the group of three connected buildings five months after the fire is no more a sad reminder of loss. In its place, on the small lot across from the library where the two-and-a-half story structure once stood, stands something gained: a modern, one-story, two-unit office building, tastefully set back from Route 5, with striped parking on two sides.

“It looks like it belongs here,” said Stan Tupaj, owner of Kezar Realty, who will move into the right-hand office by the end of October. Phil Allen, who happened to be driving by, slowed to a stop. “It’s actually a better blend” with surrounding historic homes than the old general store, he said.

All of which is music to the ears to the building’s developer, John P. Smith of Sweden, who knew well, from his daily breakfast visits to Rosie’s, how central the building had been to the life of the town. One day in mid-June, he walked over to the site and noticed a “For Sale” sign had been put up by the former building’s five owners. “It was an eyesore, let me tell you,” he said.

A BETTER BLEND — Developer John P. Smith took great care to create eye appeal in constructing the two-unit office building that has replaced the historic building in Lovell Village that burned in February. He used architectural shingles on the eight-pitch roof, cedar clapboard siding with reduced weather exposure at the bottom, round windows on each gable end, and shutters framing six-over-six window panes. All exterior elements are designed in keeping with other structures in the village.

A BETTER BLEND — Developer John P. Smith took great care to create eye appeal in constructing the two-unit office building that has replaced the historic building in Lovell Village that burned in February. He used architectural shingles on the eight-pitch roof, cedar clapboard siding with reduced weather exposure at the bottom, round windows on each gable end, and shutters framing six-over-six window panes. All exterior elements are designed in keeping with other structures in the village.

But Smith saw the possibilities instead, and a way to put his 30 years of experience as a landlord specializing in saving distressed properties to work. The Lovell building is his 17th such project.

Three days later, Smith bought the property for $33,500 from the owners, who, at the time of the fire, were Tupaj, Steven and Martha Goldsmith of Lovell, Sam Nesbit of Stow, Nathan Goff of Scarborough and Ian Austin.

Acting as clerk of the works and using almost all local contractors, Smith spent every day of the next 12 weeks designing and constructing the building. “The exterior appearance is, to me, one of the most important facets in a building,” Smith said, to create eye appeal and complement the other historic buildings in the village. He used architectural shingles on the eight-pitch roof, cedar clapboard siding with reduced weather exposure at the bottom, round windows on each gable end, and shutters framing six-over-six window panes. He even salvaged slabs of the 1837 granite foundation of the old store and used them to border the entrances to the two units.

The activity literally slowed traffic along Route 5 for many weeks, and residents gawked and some even stopped to find out what was going to replace the old National Register of Historic Places landmark.

As a shrewd Yankee, Smith kept his cards close to his vest, with the exception of Tupaj, with whom he made a verbal agreement to “build to suit” one of the two office units. As the building took shape, the accolades began.

“I’m amazed at all the positive feedback on this building,” Smith said.

Meanwhile, Tupaj, Kezar Realty’s owner since 2002, did what he does best; he promoted the building, on his “Kezar Life” blog and to everyone in town. He also is acting as agent for Smith to find a second tenant. Smith’s dream tenant would be a bank satellite office, or perhaps an insurance company; in any event, his priority is to “find the right fit” so that everyone wins. The unit is being offered at rent that is below market rates, he said.

After Tupaj moves in and both units are finished inside and out, Smith plans to hold an open house to thank all of the contractors who worked on the building. Tupaj said his open house for his office would likely wait until next spring.

ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE — John P. Smith, right, and Stan Tupaj stand at the entrance to the new offices of Kezar Realty in Lovell Village, in a two-unit building Smith “built to suit” for Tupaj, Smith said. Smith would love to entice a satellite banking office to take up the other space; in any event, he wants to make sure the second rental is a “win-win” for himself, the tenant and the community.

ARCHITECTS OF CHANGE — John P. Smith, right, and Stan Tupaj stand at the entrance to the new offices of Kezar Realty in Lovell Village, in a two-unit building Smith “built to suit” for Tupaj, Smith said. Smith would love to entice a satellite banking office to take up the other space; in any event, he wants to make sure the second rental is a “win-win” for himself, the tenant and the community.

The fire was especially devastating for Tupaj and his three in-house brokers, because the vast majority of his records were destroyed. “It was a dark time,” he said, but “the offers of help were overwhelming.” He relocated in a former doctor’s office across the street, and said he never seriously considered closing the business.

“We’ve come too far. Maybe if I was older (think about closing), but we’ve built a good foundation here.”

Tupaj said Lovell has had more than its share of business challenges in recent years, with the closing of Lovell Hardware and the Wicked Good Store. But the Wicked Good Store has reopened on a limited basis, Beth Armington has opened a new ice cream shop, the Homestead Scoop, and the new office building gives local residents reason to hope for the future.

“This (Smith’s building) is a positive sign, and a shot in the arm for the town,” Tupaj said. “This means a lot to the community.”

 

 

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