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Navy: Anyone want keys to the Castle at Portsmouth shipyard?

Union Leader Correspondent

March 05. 2014 8:38PM

KITTERY, Maine — The Navy hopes to find someone interested in developing “the Castle,” the former naval prison that shares Seavey Island with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“The Navy seeks to competitively select a developer to lease the premises,” the Navy announced. “The developer selected by the Navy will develop, operate and maintain a facility compatible with shipyard operations.”

The Navy said it would accept proposals from public or private developers to lease for up to a half-century more than 11 acres and redevelop Building 93 — a 265,000-square-foot former prison built in 1908 and closed in 1974.

In the late 1990s, New Hampshire developer Joseph Sawtelle planned to transform the prison into a high-tech office building accessible to Portsmouth by boat. The project fell apart when he died in 2000.

Eight years later, the Navy attempted to find a new developer, but was unsuccessful.

The multi-story, reinforced concrete structure could be costly to repair. The floors are buckled, pipes are broken and wires dangle inside the building. A developer would have to remove the asbestos, lead paint and deal with any other environmental issues.

While most of the former prison is vacant, portions of the first floor of the southwest extension are currently being used to store old office equipment, according to the announcement.

“The developer shall be fully responsible for the entire premises, including, but not limited to, ensuring the structural stability of Building 93 in its entirety, the removal, disposal and remediation of all hazardous materials present in and/or on the premises,” the announcement states.

A forum for interested developers is scheduled for April 9 at the Regatta Banquet & Conference Center in Eliot, Maine.

The former prison was featured in “The Last Detail” with Jack Nicholson, who portrayed a Marine Corps “chaser” who would be condemned to serve out a prisoner’s sentence if he allowed him to escape.

Currently, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has about 4,700 employees and 100 naval personnel on the base. There is a historic district at the shipyard; 50 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the shipyard’s website.

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