BANGOR – City officials on Wednesday gave the operators of Ofelia’s two extra weeks to get their stuff out of the condemned downtown building the thrift shop and community center have occupied since April.
Ofelia’s Arte Fino Gallery at 77 Central St. was condemned on Tuesday by Dan Wellington, the city’s code enforcement officer, and operators initially were given 48 hours to vacate the building.
Wellington cited safety issues associated with the sprinkler system and fire alarm, both of which are not in working order, and other issues.
The extension comes as welcome news, Sergio Ramos, director of Ofelia’s Community Resource Center, said Wednesday. Moving the thrift store’s clothing alone, which would easily fill a tractor-trailer, is a massive undertaking that could not have been completed by Thursday, he said.
Ever since the news spread that Ofelia’s building had been condemned, “we’ve had a tremendous amount of people calling us supporting us,” Ramos said.
Ofelia’s, in recent months, has become a place for area youth to gather for performances and poetry readings, and as a place to display their art where “they didn’t have to worry about being judged. They could be who they are,” Ramos said. “I’m telling them we’re not going away, we’re just moving.”
The gathering of the sometimes large crowds is one reason the city is concerned, City Manager Edward Barrett said.
“When they initially moved into the building … their certificate of occupancy was for a retail shop,” he said. “Subsequent to that, we became aware that they were using it for entertainment events … which kicks in stronger code requirements.”
The more people, the more rules, he said.
“Our concern is the safety of the public,” Barrett said. “That’s what we’re trying to ensure.”
Ofelia’s Food Cupboard and Thrift Store began in Glenburn in 2002 at 831 Pushaw Road and still operates as a food pantry there. The next year, the nonprofit, under the name Ofelia’s Community Resource Center, moved to Union Street in Bangor. In April of this year, it moved into the five-story Central Street building and expanded to offer local performance space and a display area for artists. Only two floors of the structure were open to the public.
The city license, issued July 23, states the facility is a secondhand dealer. In order to become a performance space, Ofelia’s would need to acquire a place-to-assemble certificate of occupancy, Barrett said.
A Sept. 13 inspection of the building by Mark Marquis, the city’s building and plumbing inspector, resulted in a list of 23 safety issues, including the fire alarm and sprinkler system. According to the report, the building also needs fire doors, exit signs with battery backups, and upgrades to handrails to bring them to code compliance. Various heating system and electrical issues also exist.
“If the building meets the code, then a certificate of occupancy would be issued,” Barrett said.
Unfortunately for Ofelia’s, it doesn’t appear the issues will be fixed in the near future, and until they are addressed, the building will remain condemned, he said.
Ramos said his two biggest concerns now are finding a place to hold Ofelia’s already planned events, and finding a new place to call home.
“We still haven’t been able to find a facility yet,” he said. “The [planned] venues are all being scattered throughout the community.”
The Underground Club on outer Hammond Street is going to host the planned Nov. 3 punk show; the Sea Dog has offered space on Nov. 9-10 for a performance; and the Wilson Street Ballroom, at 797 Wilson St., is donating space for the Bangor Arts Society event on Nov. 28-29, Ramos said.
Other businesses also have stepped forward to help, Ramos added.
“We will make it,” he said. “We’ll find another space to move into. This building doesn’t make Ofelia’s. The people make Ofelia’s.”