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Local developer vows to rescue Maine’s third-largest mall

Al Urbanski
New owner Dana Cassidy considers the mall to be a major landmark in Presque Isle.

Maine’s Vestar Power was about to pull the plug on Aroostook Centre Mall when Dana Cassidy put together a deal to buy the half-million-sq.-ft. property in Presque Isle, just miles from the border of Canada’s New Brunswick province.

“What I’m going to do is pay for it and I am going to bring it back,” the local developer told the Bangor Daily News.

The price paid to former owner Kohan Retail Investment Group for Maine’s third-largest mall was not disclosed, though Cassidy said he incurred no debt in the purchase.

Aroostook Centre had troubles from its birth. Shortly after opening in November of 1993, the U.S. government announced it would be closing the region’s No. 1 employer, Loring Air Force Base in nearby Limestone. It was one of the largest bases of the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command and Limestone’s population dropped from 10,000 to 2,000 when it shut down.

The current population of Presque Isle—the largest city in Aroostook County--is fewer than 10,000 people.

The mall lost $1 million last year and Cassidy reported similar ongoing losses in paying for taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance. His recent repaving of the parking lot is a sign that he intends to fight a lengthy battle to sustain the center that’s anchored by JCPenney and Harbor Freight.

Just 16 tenants currently inhabit the property, a dangerously meager number for a regional mall. Among the holdouts are Bath & Body Works, All-Star Gymnastics, and Ruby Tuesday.

Cassidy initially plans to invest close to $4 million to add a trampoline park, a 24-hour gym, and a 4,000-sq.-ft. laundromat to Aroostook Centre. He will also be adding more entrances to make access easier for customers.

The developer said he considered the mall to be one of four major landmarks in Presque Isle along with Northern Maine Community College, the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and Presque Isle International Airport. Cassidy, who owns a shopping center in neighboring Somerset County and several residential properties in Presque Isle, is intent on keeping Aroostook Centre Mall alive.

“If we don’t retain what we have for the population of people,” he told the Bangor Daily News, “you can’t go forward,”

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