TOWNSHIP 1 RANGE 8 — Efforts by Matthew Polstein to build a $65 million ecotourism development called Ktaadn Resorts remain stalled for lack of financing, but the smallest portion of his plans, a $2.1 million “totally green” upgrade to his Twin Pines Camps development on Millinocket Lake, is almost finished.
Six of the nine cabins Polstein started building in March will be open by month’s end, with construction of the other three expected to start this fall, he said. The first three cabins built began taking in clients last week.
“People speak in superlatives when they speak of the experience of staying here,” Polstein said of the new cabins opening. “We have decent bookings for July and August, so we are going to hold off on starting construction of the new cabins until this fall.”
The new buildings feature state-of-the-art interior design and structural insulated panels — large blocks of polystyrene encased in oriented strand board — to help ensure air- and heat-tight conditions in compliance with the strictest energy-saving and environmentally sound standards, Polstein said.
Cellulose made from recycled newsprint fills the walls, and heat recovery ventilation systems guarantee proper air quality within the buildings, which are propane-heated and have metal roofs. All forms of caulking, paint, wood finish, furniture and plumbing within the buildings are certified environmentally friendly by several organizations, including the Forest Stewardship Council.
Michael J. Brown Cabinet Makers of Millinocket, Rioux Electric of Medway, plumber Michael Pooler of East Millinocket and Tolman Construction of Mattawamkeag are among the project’s local subcontractors.
Porter Drywall of Portland is installing walls. Moosehead Furniture of Newport and artisan Carl Ambrose of Millinocket are providing furnishings as part of Polstein’s desire to employ local contractors and create a uniquely Maine atmosphere. Two other buildings for offices and storage also are finished as part of the project.
Polstein believes the new cabins, which rent for $400 to $570 a night, will create a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in cabin rentals. Business at the “old” cabins, which rent for as low as $220 a night, continues unabated while the new cabin bookings are firming up, he said.
“Our business at Twin Pines has come within 2 percent of the profits we had last year, which was our best year ever,” Polstein said.
His company begins the mammoth resort work with the Twin Pines expansion because it’s the easiest, and least expensive, aspect of his venture, Polstein has said.
A restaurant owner, outdoor recreation entrepreneur and former Millinocket Town Council member, Polstein still is working to raise the $30 million to $35 million required for the next Ktaadn Resorts phase, which includes a large hotel and several family lodges.
“Given the way the economy is, we hope that things will turn around in the next 12 months or so,” Polstein said. “People still say they are interested in investing in this.”
Besides the Twin Pines expansion, his plans call for a community center and a residential and mixed-use subdivision totaling 35 residential lots and 12 mixed-use town houses on 1,450 acres of the township along Millinocket Lake.
Polstein estimates the resort would create at least 100 full-time jobs, spur at least 60,000 visitor-days in the Katahdin region and draw 17,000 tourists to his resort for about 3½ days each.
Construction and opening of the hotel and other major facilities is expected to take several years. Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission unanimously approved rezoning 244 acres for the resort in June 2006.
Given the success of the incremental approach to Twin Pines, Polstein might adopt a similar, one-piece-at-a-time approach to building Ktaadn Resorts, he said.
“We just need to prove that it works [during] 12 months of doing business that way,” Polstein said.