NORTHPORT — Bit by bit, the 387-acre tract of land in Northport that had been developed into a corporate resort on Ducktrap Mountain is returning to quieter days when it was primarily the Maine woods. The buildings, once glittering with banquets, conferences, conversations and dances, will be disassembled and moved, or sold for salvage.
A few of them will remain standing: The one-time and temporary Lincolnville school (used as a school when the town was building its new school in Lincolnville Center) as well as a former corporate warehouse, both of which are on land that abuts Route 1, are all being sold for a new venture, which has yet to be announced.
“It should be a good thing for the community if it transpires,” said David Hirschfeld, who now owns the Point Lookout property, along with his wife, Tami. The couple, who have owned real estate in Montana and Camden, acquired Point Lookout in March 2019. Now they want to pare down the assets.
Four buildings and contents that once comprised the MBNA Point Lookout corporate retreat, and subsequently rented for various private functions after Bank of America absorbed MBNA, are to be auctioned. Point Lookout had been built in 2001-2002, and in getting permission from the state, had put 160 acres of the total 387 into conservation easement.
In an auction without reserve, according to the Cornell School of Law, “after the auctioneer calls for bids on an article or lot, that article or lot cannot be withdrawn unless no bid is made within a reasonable time. In either case a bidder may retract his bid until the auctioneer's announcement of completion of the sale, but a bidder's retraction does not revive any previous bid.”
Items to be sold include maintenance and commercial kitchen equipment, food service and catering supplies, A/V and electronic systems, office equipment, antiques, stone hard-scapes, bowling alleys, and salvage on several buildings.
Left standing under Hirschfeld ownership will be 35 cabins and a building that houses a gymnasium. For now, the gym is to continue operating as it has, with 150-200 members, but only if it can turn a healthier financial corner.
“Whether the gym will stay, that’s a a question,” said David Hirschfeld. “We lost 40,000 first quarter on the gym; in the second quarter we lost $50,000. Some of that is covid. We have to figure out a way to have it make money.”
What disappears includes the Copper Pine Cafe, Hedges Hall (the conference facility, with a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, at the foot of the mountain), the gatehouse, many of the small cabins that had dotted the slopes behind Hedges Hall, and the pavilion, a 10,000 square-foot covered outdoor space, which may, said Hirschfeld, be relocated elsewhere by someone interested in purchasing it.
“It’s no small task to move something like that,” he said. “I don’t know how that will happen.”
Hirschfeld looks forward to the divestment. He wants to concentrate on cultivating blueberry fields and an apple orchard on part of the property — “honey crisps,” he said, if he can determine what they need to thrive in Maine’s climate.
While he and Tami initially purchased Point Lookout early in 2019, they considered keeping the conference center and resort operating. Then, they decided it was a financial risk. After a strong community response, they then circulated requests for proposals to lease portions of the Point Lookout Resort and keep the restaurant, event facility and gymnasium in operation, as well as 40 of the 106 cabins in the lodging business.
But little panned out, and the Hirschfelds decided to sell, keeping but the gym and 35-40 of the cabins as Air B&B lodging, run by his daughter and son-in-law. Currently, he said, many renters are coming and staying the entire summer, even into October, in those cabins.
Since last fall, the Hirschfelds donated the former MBNA park across Route 1 to Coastal Mountains Land Trust, which recently swapped it with the Town of Lincolnville for a parcel on the Ducktrap River, for conservation purposes. The park, as approved by Lincolnville voters, will remain a publicly-owned asset on Penobscot Bay.
With that donation, plus selling approximately 30 acres on what the school and warehouse occupy, leaves the Hirschfelds with approximately 300 acres of wooded hillside, land they intend to place in agriculture, and the summit atop Ducktrap Mountain (or Peaked Mountain, as it was once known).
There, the former conference center is being renovated as a private residence, with the help of Phi Builders. They are, however, reducing its 20,000 square foot size to something more appropriate to a family.
“The summit is where we are building our house,” said David. “We are remodeling, and downsizing.”
They intend to live up there year-round. A former Montana resident, he is accustomed to foul weather and has a plow ready for snow.
Hirschfeld is familiar with the disappointment that some in the community have for the closing of the conference center, but he knows the expense of keeping the buildings.
“They are just hugely expensive to maintain and pay taxes on,” he said, estimating that Hedges Hall alone costs $30,000 annually to keep in shape, and requires another $30,000 in property taxes paid to the town.
In addition to clearing fields for blueberry crops and apple orchards, Hirschfeld is concentrating on his upcoming 50K (31 miles) and 10K (six miles) races, scheduled for September 12, through Camden Hills State Park land. He said he is still talking with park managers, and while there may be some pandemic-related restrictions, the Megunticook Races are on.
The two races are limited to 100 participants each.
Hirschfeld is an avid runner and he doesn’t mind people climbing the trails at Point Lookout, at least while he is still building the summit house. He said he does not plan to sell any more acreage, and will live there now on approximately 300 acres.
Nor does he plan to move.
“We are in for a penny, in for a pound,” he said.
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