Old seafood sign that once drew people to I-95 in Waterville

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WATERVILLE, Maine — A dilapidated seafood sign familiar to drivers traveling on Interstate 95 toward Waterville has fallen years after the restaurant on the property was demolished.

The Waterville Code Enforcement Department recently ordered the sign removed from 470 Kennedy Memorial Drive. The sign was associated with the former Weathervane seafood restaurant, which closed in January 2016. Marden’s Surplus and Salvage owns the property and has an adjacent store.

Homeowners had until October 7 to remove the well-known sign or face fines ranging from $100 to $500 a day, City Manager Stephen Daly told a City Council meeting the week last.

The property, off the 127 off-ramp off I-95, is in a prime location in Waterville, but has sat vacant for years. For a city in the process of revitalization worth millions of dollars, the location could be an opportunity to attract more visitors and provide residents with another option to eat or shop locally.

City officials and owners discussed several ideas for what could be built there — including a chain of restaurants and a strip mall — but nothing materialized. Residents expressed a need for another grocery store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, a clothing store, and an indoor activity space for kids, among other options.

Code enforcers weren’t immediately available for comment on Monday, but Waterville Councilman Thomas Klepach said the sign had been in disrepair for years. The sign, which was missing one of its letters, was an eyesore, he said.

“Honestly, it was a danger,” he said. “It was a bit wobbly on a large steel beam that could have easily fallen over and hit traffic.”

The sign was likely removed within the past week, Klepach said.

Klepach offered to buy the sign two or three years ago and left his information with a Marden’s manager, but never heard back. He was renovating his house and thought of using it as part of a light fixture.

Now only heaps of dirt and stones rest on the property.

After the Weathervane restaurant closed in 2015, Marden got it demolished in 2016 once they realized the space was too outdated for a business to move into, according to the Morning Sentinel. A former car wash and arborist building also sat on the property.

The Mardens were in discussions with potential developers, particularly national restaurant chains, but no solid plan was in place at the time, chairman Ham Marden told the newspaper in July 2016.

In November of the following year, the Mardens and an engineer proposed strip mall on the site, which could include retail and restaurant businesses, according to the Morning Sentinel.

Marden’s owners purchased the former Weathervane property as an investment, chief executive Craig Burgess said Monday. The company has no firm plans for this, but there are several interested parties, he said.

Burgess said he couldn’t share more information at this time.

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