A historic New Milford building is moving smoothly from town ownership to the private sector.

Historic preservationist Patricia Greenspan was delighted Monday when some 40 or more residents voted to sell a long-vacant landmark edifice on Church Street to entrepreneurs who value it as an architectural keepsake.

For a discount price of $120,000, the owners of locally operated Ameico, a high-end furnishings and product business, can now refurbish the property and expand their thriving business.

Ameico ships to such clients as fashion designer Ralph Lauren and top museums across the country.

During Monday's special town meeting, voters unanimously approved the purchase.

Part of the projected Ameico store will include a designer product exhibition gallery and design library open to the public, owner Peter Cahane said.

Mr. Cahane and his partner, Jeannette Purdy, now operate the unique business, started in 1955 in New York, from a storefront just west along Church Street from the town-owned property.

The brick and limestone building, built in 1917 -- one of the few such time-period structures still remaining in town -- was opened first as a telephone company facility.

At various times, the long, narrow building with decorative cornices and a parapet was used for school classrooms, as a community center, the forerunner to the New Milford Parks & Recreation department, and for town offices.

Ms. Greenspan said the sale to Mr. Cahane and Ms. Purdy is a "golden opportunity" to preserve this piece of history, while also adding to the downtown's economic vitality.

"It has stood virtually unoccupied for years, but not unloved,'' said Ms. Greenspan, a leader in the New Miford Trust for Historic Preservation, of the building now boarded and decorated with graffiti.

Town attorney Randy DiBella said the highlight of this project is the continued viability of the building.

He said the buyers have stipulated they intend to preserve the architectural character and will set aside some $250,000 to ensure, once the property undergoes an environmental cleanup, the restoration work will commence.

Mr. Cahane and Ms. Purdy have also agreed to allow the town to continue to use part of the parking lot to the building's east for daytime municipal use.

Mr. DiBella said the negotiated purchase price reflects the fact the buyers will have to spend considerable dollars to remediate the property and building, including for asbestos and lead abatement.

Town Councilman Ray O'Brien said the sale protects a valuable town property and brings employment to downtown with expansion of a growing business.

"It's a win, win, win," Mr. O'Brien said.