CALAIS, Maine — The city’s planning board met with local attorney Dan Lacasse earlier this week to view a plan by developer Sidney Unobskey for some serious downtown economic development work.
Speaking on Unobskey’s behalf, Lacasse unveiled the plan which, if approved, would lead to more downtown stores and possibly a fast-food restaurant.
Most of the changes called for in the plan would take place on Main Street in the area of the Ferry Point Bridge, which connects Calais with neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick.
“We think we have an opportunity on two sides of the street where there is currently not a lot happening to bring some development to the city of Calais,” Lacasse said, “bring some jobs and some tax revenues.”
Unobskey, who makes his home in San Francisco, but who has longtime family ties to Calais, has projects that include the construction of major malls in the U.S. and abroad.
Unobskey owns two pieces of land in that area of Main Street, including the former Urban Moose building and the nearby parking lot. He also owns the parking lot at Marden’s Surplus and Salvage Store as well as land near it.
Working with an engineering drawing, Lacasse talked about the former Urban Moose area. He said Unobskey would like to see the city abandon Black Smith Street to traffic to allow for the area around the former Urban Moose to be renovated and changed into a building site for either a fast-food restaurant or some other fast-food business.
“To look at the possibility of developing this piece of land we have to have 40,000 square feet. The only way that works is to abandon the street and reworking the area,” Lacasse said.
Lacasse said he already was talking with abutting landowners about the change to Black Smith Street. Right now Black Smith Street is a rarely used short connector road between Main and Union streets.
Across Main Street, Unobskey hopes to construct a nearly 16,000-square-foot building that would be used as a retail store. “It would not be nearly as big as the current Marden’s store. It would be an adjunct to the Marden’s store. It would utilize somewhere between 50 and 60 parking spaces,” he said of the parking lot that surrounds Marden’s. It could lead to an additional 10 to 15 new jobs.
While the proposed project would take some parking spaces, others would be added. “We are probably seeing the loss of somewhere between 15 and 20 parking spaces,” the attorney added.
The plan also calls for another three small stores on the other side of the parking lot. There also are plans, which Lacasse said he could not elaborate on, for philanthropic charitable agencies to be housed in some current store-fronts in the downtown area. “We are trying to pull all these things together so we can utilize all of the [vacant] space on Main Street,” he said.
Nothing is going to happen immediately.
Planning board Chairman Robert Bailey said that until more information is available, including engineering studies, there is nothing for the planning board to act on.
Lacasse agreed that more studies and plans were needed, along with more meetings with the planning board and the City Council.