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Idle Potential: M F Charles Building Awaits Action

A developer with ambitious plans bought the historic building, but has yet to move the project forward.

The M. F. Charles Building in Reading Center stands as one of the most iconic structures in town, but the historic landmark currently remains under capacity.

The building has housed a number of businesses in its 110-year history, including a barbershop, an insurance agency and a gift shop called Sense of Wonder, in addition to its namesake M. F. Charles & Sons stationery store. It still serves as home to The Clockfolk of New England and Hersey Jewelers, but the large, corner bay that housed the recently relocated Bank of America gapes empty, and a red-printed "Coming Soon" poster stares through the glass under the M. F. Charles & Sons sign.

Haven Properties LLC bought the building for $2.9 million in 2005 with ambitious plans to renovate and expand. Investor James Mawn Jr. presented renderings that included the addition of 14 housing units and a restaurant with patio seating, said Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, but has yet to submit formal plans.

In his list of goals for 2010, Hechenbleikner said he wanted to "Work towards the beginning of construction of major private downtown development projects," including the M. F. Charles Building, but the group's interest in the project has waned. Mawn last signed in at a public meeting in Reading in November 2009.

Status: Haven properties showed ambitious ideas, but has yet to submit formal plans.

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