PALMER (AP) -- A downtown building here that once housed the state's largest creamery but which has been empty for 15 years may reopen for business soon.
Heritage Properties, an Anchorage company that specializes in rehabilitating historic properties, has agreed to buy and renovate the old Matanuska Maid Creamery.
Heritage hopes to turn the building and an adjoining warehouse into office and retail space, or possibly apartments, said Grace Pleasants, a partner in the firm.
''We've got lots of ideas,'' she told the Anchorage Daily News.
In its heyday -- the 1940s and 1950s -- the Matanuska Maid creamery supplied half of Alaska's milk. The building also housed a cannery, a shopping center and a produce exchange. It later was converted into a hardware store that sold everything from chicken feed to tractor tires and wood stoves.
But the store closed in 1985. Since then, the former town hub has become an eyesore -- a vacant and deteriorating structure on an untended plot in the heart of downtown Palmer.
The property is a stone's throw from the Mat-Su Borough offices, the courthouse and Valley hospital.
Officials with the State Division of Agriculture have been negotiating to sell the 2.5-acre property to Heritage for the past three years.
Other nearby buildings, including an old feed mill, still are being used by Matanuska Maid and aren't part of the deal.
The major sticking point has been who would pay to clean up any environmental hazards in the buildings. Under the deal signed last month, the state agreed to pay Heritage $123,000 to clean up the asbestos and any other hazards.
Heritage will pay $100,000 owed to the city of Palmer for past water, sewer and street improvements on the property. The company also must restore the buildings, including patching leaky roofs and making the structures handicapped-accessible.
Pleasants estimated that will cost $3.5 million.
The buildings have been placed on historic properties lists, so any changes to their overall appearance must conform to state and federal preservation standards.
The creamery and nearly two-dozen other buildings were built in Palmer's downtown in the late 1930s as part of a federal experiment to colonize the area.
It was one of nearly 100 such experiments around the nation at the time. Many of its structural remnants are well preserved, said Judith Bittner with the state Office of History and Archaeology.
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