Occasionally, we'll hold a business story, if one of the subjects asks us to because things are in flux and a potential transaction is not a "done deal." Such was the case with the sale of the former Novel Cafe to the parent company of Ira Toyota.
In the meantime, the Lowell Sun published an article last week breaking news of the deal, which will not be finalized for another month.
However that article led to three questions from readers, wondering what the fate of the historic Hardy-Pike House would be, not that the property was being purchased by the dealership.
Here is just one of those questions.
Question: I read that the old Novel Cafe property is being sold to a car dealership. Is the building going to be torn down or what?
Answer: Yes. Marc Ginsburg presently owns the building known as the Hardy-Pike House which, most recently, was home to "A Novel Cafe," a coffee house and bookstore run by Leisa Ginsburg.
Ginsburg is close to closing a deal with Group 1, a corporation based in Houston, Texas, which is the parent company of Ira Toyota, located next door to the Hardy-Pike property.
Because the deal won't be finalized until July, no one is talking about the corporation's plans are for the property, but there are three possibilities.
1. Ira Toyota uses the building for company offices -- This is possible. The building is in exceptional condition after Ginsburg put hundreds of thousands of dollars into renovation. Still, Car dealerships tend to like modern and flashy, not rustic. So, while possible, it's unlikely.
2. Group 1 sells the building and it is relocated -- This would be nice. Again, it's a wonderful historic building with a great history. But moving a building is a pricey proposition and it's questionable whether or not the buyer or seller would be willing to make that investment.
3. Group 1 tears down the building Ira Toyota expands into the vacant lot -- Smart money says this is the most likely outcome because it is the most cost effective for Group 1. But don't expect the town, and in particular the Historic Commission, to let the building be razed without a fight. Most likely, as it did with the Ames Castle, the commission would put a nine-month hold on any demolition proposal with the hopes of working out another solution.
Wildcard -- Town Manager Richard Montuori said something near the end of the last Board of Selectmen's meeting that was almost a throwaway line but should be noted. Montuori floated the idea of using the Hardy Pike House, instead of the Senior Center, as a temporary home to town offices for two years, while the Town Hall renovation is completed.
"It's a longshot, but we're looking into it," said Montuori.
The building is well suited for town offices. It has plenty of parking and is handicapped accessible. If the town is able to negotiate that deal, it would buy a two-year window to try and figure out another solution for saving the building.