Monday, October 26, 2015

Handyman abandons Odd Fellows conversion project - By Walter Lunt

Former handyman icon, now real estate developer Kaile Warren has dropped plans to convert the aging Odd Fellows Hall in Windham into an upscale arts and community center. Warren said he commissioned an engineering firm to inspect the building and, as he put it, “The property failed.” He said the report showed problems with the roof and wall timbers which form a single unit, resulting in the building “…caving and coming forward.” The bottom line, according to Warren, was that repairs to the structure would run about 30 percent more than tearing it down and starting over.” Warren said he submitted a lower counter-offer for the property, but it was rejected.
The property is owned by Lake Pine Association, which handles management and maintenance for the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs fraternal organizations that aid groups and individuals in need of help. President Janet Waterhouse told the Eagle that while the Odd Fellows portion of the organization no longer functions, the association represents 10 or so remaining members of the Rebekahs. Waterhouse said the association declined Warren’s counter-offer because it was too low, and because she is “not so sure” about the engineer’s conclusions.

Waterhouse maintains that the stanchion form of construction utilized when the hall was built in the 1950s is considered unconventional today.

“It’s possible they’re not familiar with that kind of structure,” she said, and added that the association may choose to hire its own engineer when their board meets next week.

“I’m really disappointed because (Warren) was going to do wonderful things (with the building),” said Waterhouse.

Warren had planned to transform the hall into an upscale community center under a business model he called FACE, an acronym for Fundraising (non-profits), Arts (theater groups, artists), Cultural (including multicultural events), and Entertainment (celebrations, seminars).

Neither side discussed financial details, but following the rejection of his counter-offer, Warren said, “I was deeply touched by the history of the location (which he had vowed to preserve), (but) the situation is, that as a pragmatic businessman, deals have to make financial sense. I wish the Rebekahs nothing but the very best in their efforts to keep the building standing.” Warren said he will expand his search for a FACE venue both within and outside of Windham.

Waterhouse said that despite their reduced numbers, the Rebekahs will continue to meet either in rented space or in members’ homes to pursue their mission of supporting local charities and those in need.

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