BELFAST, Maine — The sale of a crumbling sardine processing plant to a group of Maine maritime professionals who intend to transform the waterfront land into a major regional shipyard should be final by Friday, according to two of the investors.
Once the sale is closed on the former Stinson Seafood property, the new owners plan to start right away to develop the new entity, Front Street Shipyard, investor Taylor Allen of Rockport Marine said Wednesday. At first, the shipyard will be used to repair and restore commercial and private boats of all sizes, but eventually may be used to build new boats.
“If it works like we hope it does, there will be some job creation going on,” Allen said. “It’s probably the best site for this purpose north of Portland.”
Other partners in the project include Steve White, president of Brooklin Boat Yard, Ken Priest, president and CEO of Augusta-based Kenway Corp., and J.B. Turner, also of Kenway Corp., but who will become the managing director of the new shipyard.
The group is purchasing the 4-acre parcel, complete with several dilapidated buildings, from development company Belfast Bridge LLC. The city of Belfast filed two lawsuits against the company in June after the developers failed in their plan to convert the property into a $12 million luxury condominium project.
City Manager Joe Slocum last week said that if the sale of the property goes through, Belfast officials will be relieved.
“That will resolve the underlying litigation,” he said then. “We’re kind of at the end of our ropes.”
Because of what he termed a “very unique zoning situation,” the city has been involved in discussions with potential buyers for the property.
According to Allen, the consortium of purchasers became interested in the property for a number of reasons.
Those include its “fairly” deep-water access and the fact that the four acres are flat, which he termed a “rare commodity” in this part of Maine.
He also noted that Belfast is a service center and has things to do.
“A lot of the boats we’re working with will have paid crews on board,” he said. “It’s important to them that there’s something to do in the neighborhood. Belfast has restaurants, shops, theater — it just has a lot to offer.”
Allen said Front Street Shipyard’s clientele likely will come from all along the East Coast of the United States and into the Caribbean.
“We’ll be marketing internationally,” he said. “Commercial boats, private yachts, large, small, anything in between.”
According to Turner, Front Street Shipyard officials hope to employ between 25 and 30 people within six months, as the company begins work on the first part of the project. That will include razing the old Stinson Seafood building located closest to the Belfast footbridge within two months of the closing date.
One main goal is to get work done fast to drive in the pilings that will support the piers under the large travel lift, Turner said.
“The backbone of the yard to start is going to be service refit and repair,” he said Thursday.
The new yard will be equipped with a large marine travel lift that will be able to hoist ships weighing up to 150 tons, which is more than can be lifted at either the Brooklin Boat Yard or Rockport Marine, Allen said.
There will be docking facilities for transient boats and the possibility of having seasonal slip use in the future, with perhaps 60 boat slips located there within three to five years, according to Turner.
There may be other projects related to the shipyard down the road, he said.
Officials at Kenway Corp., which manufactures technologically advanced products such as composite bridge systems, are particularly interested in having deep-water access, Turner said.
In the future, the company may be able to use the shipyard to move things such as windmill blades and other components of Maine’s offshore wind initiative.
“It’s a big gamble,” Turner said of the shipyard’s future. “But we’ve been in the boatyard business a long time, and we’re taking an educated guess.”
The new yard likely will be open for business sometime during the summer, Allen said.
“If this thing works like we hope it does, it should help some other businesses in the area,” he said.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly contained photos of the Stinson cannery in Prospect Harbor.