Developer ‘Bud’ Grant dies at 83

Posted Dec. 19, 2010, at 9:35 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — Well-known Bangor businessman and developer Judson “Bud” Grant was remembered this weekend as a visionary entrepreneur and community benefactor whose ambition and work ethic have left an indelible mark in the Bangor area.

Grant died Saturday from complications of diabetes at his home in Bangor with his family by his side. He was 83 years old.

“He was a true entrepreneur,” said former Bangor city councilor and Grant’s longtime friend Hal Wheeler on Sunday. “He was never afraid to take a risk because he knew that if he kept his finger on the pulse of a project it would come out the way he wanted it.”

Grant’s most visible projects in the Bangor area include the Judson Heights residential development and the outsized Kev-Lan restaurant, convenience store and gas station on outer Broadway. He also developed the Wilson Square Mall and The Cottage restaurant — now closed — in Brewer, as well as the former Broadway Furniture store.

But Grant’s signature project may be the Birch Hill Estates mobile home park in Bangor, built in the 1980s near the corner of outer Broadway and Burleigh Road. The rambling hillside park offered the ambiance of a well-kept suburban neighborhood, including maintained roadways, attractive landscaping and a sense of quiet community, at a time when “trailer parks” were not considered an attractive option for middle-class families.

“His passion has always been Birch Hill Estates,” said son-in-law Mike Longo. The park now includes approximately 400 mobile homes.

Birch Hill Estates reflected Grant’s larger vision for the future of outer Broadway, Longo said.

“He knew that in time things would grow out there, and he was right,” he said. The Kev-Lan complex, named for his two grandsons Kevin and Landon, was built extra large to allow for anticipated expansion related to the presence of a proposed road — now off the maps — that would have connected the area to Stillwater Avenue near the Bangor Mall.

Although Kev-Lan now may seem out of place at the relatively undeveloped corner, Longo said Grant remained confident that outer Broadway would see significant growth over time.

“He never did anything in a small way,” Longo said of his father-in-law.

Grant’s development company, Grant Trailer Sales, owns the nearby Judson Heights Plaza as well as a large parcel a little farther west on Broadway that Longo said will be developed for commercial and residential purposes when the time is right.

Grant also was recognized Sunday for his generosity.

“Many times I’ve seen him take a hundred-dollar bill from his pocket and give it to an employee who was having a hard time,” Wheeler said. “He was a soft touch for anyone in need.”

Husson University, which sold the Kev-Lan lot to Grant in the late 1980s, also experienced Grant’s generosity firsthand. Former Husson president Bill Beardsley said Sunday that Grant paid for a significant landscaping project on the campus and also established an annual scholarship fund for rural, low-income students.

The Husson campus is built on the former site of the Hillman Dairy Farm, which was owned by Grant’s mother’s family.

“He never had the chance to go to college; he went right straight to work,” Beardsley said of Grant. “He personified the entrepreneurial spirit that Husson has always embraced.” Grant was the first recipient of an honorary degree after Husson College became Husson University in 2008.

Gov. John Baldacci, another Bangor native, recalled Grant as a “larger than life” figure who prided himself on being one of the city’s largest taxpayers.

“All of his developments were first-class,” he said. Grant’s consistent influence in the city’s business sector “was the glue that held the community together,” Baldacci said.

“When you think of Bangor, you have to think of Bud Grant,” the governor said. “He was a great man.”

Visiting hours will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 21, at Brookings-Smith on Center Street in Bangor. A funeral service will be held at Brookings-Smith at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 22.

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