The Brunswick town council will hold a public hearing Monday night during which it will recommend that the town proceed with the $35 million Maine Street Station development project.
The meeting comes after the town announced last week that it had signed an agreement with a developer for the project.
However, questions still remain concerning which portions of the site will be included in the development. Town council members hope that these questions will be resolved on Monday night.
Plans for developing the Maine Street Station site, the plot of land at the southern edge of the downtown of Brunswick near Hannaford and the McClellan Building, have been in progress for the past three years. Last week, the Maine Street Implementation Committee (MSIC), the municipal body in charge of the project, chose the proposal of a development firm, JHR Development, from a group of four proposals.
"All four firms were quite different," said William Torrey, Bowdoin's senior vice president for planning and administration and a member of the MSIC.
"We thought JHR had the best combination of track record of a development of a similar-sized site, good relation with towns in which they had done work, good understanding of what the town was trying to achieve...and quality," he said.
J. Hilary Rockett, the principal of JHR, is a graduate of the Bowdoin Class of 1986, and was captain of the hockey team in 1985.
"He's been in the development business essentially since he's been out of college," said Mathew Eddy, Brunswick's director of economic development. Eddy noted Rockett's success with a mixed-use project at Pickering Wharf in Salem, Massachusetts, which included a hotel, a bank, and retail outlets, as a good indicator of what Rockett could do in Brunswick.
"It's very similar to what we are doing here," Eddy said.
The public hearing on Monday night will give the town permission to grant land to the development package. The land in question includes the town-owned building People Plus.
"Because it's worth over a million dollars, there needs to be a public hearing," explained Torrey.
The buildings near People Plus, such as Scarlet Begonias, are not part of the development deal. If JHR Development wanted to incorporate those businesses, it would have to negotiate with the business owners itself.
According to Torrey, the College is in the process of purchasing the property that is currently the flower shop on the corner of Noble and Maine streets (near Howell House), but Torrey stated that plans for that parcel of land are still undecided.
"We're not sure whether we're going to sell it to the developer, if that goes forward, or [if] we'll develop the property ourselves," he said.
For the moment, however, nothing will change, and the businesses currently there will remain.
The College's involvement in the Maine Street Station project also remains the same, and Torrey stated that the calling for this public hearing is a big step.
"I'm encouraged that...we're moving forward," Torrey said. "The town wants to see this happen?it's good for everybody."
Even after the public hearing occurs, however, there are still several things to be done before the $35 million project can begin. The most pressing concern is the environmental state of the site, due to coal ash deposited there from earlier industry that must be removed before the project proceeds.
The removal will be performed by a recycling company that will combine the ash with cement processing, according to Eddy.
"Our goal right now, if we can do it, would be to begin remediation work in the summer and construction in the fall," said Eddy.