EASTPORT, Maine — Disappointment hung heavy in the air in Eastport on Thursday morning as city officials made the formal announcement of what had been rumored for weeks: David Marlow, the luxury yacht manufacturer and entrepreneur, has decided not to purchase the Deep Cove Marine and Boat School Facility.
“Needless to say, we are very disappointed,” Robert Peacock, president of the City Council, said Thursday morning.
City officials were stunned by the decision, not having a clue that Marlow was contemplating pulling out, Peacock said, although rumors had been rampant throughout the boat-building communities along Maine’s coast.
Marlow had approached the city last year about buying the facility for $850,000 and operating a multimillion-dollar boat-building school, luxury yacht production facility and maritime museum. He also had initiated talks with the city about providing funding to upgrade the city’s waterfront and even offer a water taxi service. The plans would have created at least 100 new jobs.
Until Marlow notified the city by email on Tuesday, plans were on track for his purchase of the facility. Complete surveys of the property were conducted just recently, and in an interview earlier this year, Marlow said he was excited about the move to Eastport.
“Over the years, I fell in love with the area,” Marlow, 68, said in January. “I watched the city. I watched the Boat School. I watched the airport. And I believe that someone has to build on this. It seems that all Eastport needs is a little spark, someone to light a match. It is time to create jobs.”
Peacock said the council has no idea why Marlow opted to scrap the project as no city official has been able to speak directly with Marlow. “But I really believe the City Council and others did everything they could do to accommodate him,” Peacock said.
Peacock said city and state officials “worked tirelessly to assist Mr. Marlow with his plans but Mr. Marlow has chosen to pursue other avenues.” Peacock said some of those that worked on the project included Gov. Paul LePage, the Legislature, Maine Senate President Kevin Raye, state Rep. David Burns, the Maine Community College System, the Maine State Park System, Thom Johnston of Husson University, the Eastport Port Authority, the Ladies of the Commons, and the Friends of the Boat School. He said all likely will be involved now in marketing the facility.
Marlow could not be reached Thursday morning at either his Florida yacht facility or his summer home in Brooklin. Peacock said city officials also have been unable to reach Marlow since Tuesday. “We want a face-to-face meeting to determine his reasoning,” Peacock said.
Sen. Raye, who lives in nearby Perry and owns a business in Eastport, said he also was hoping to contact Marlow and speak directly with him about his decision.
“His proposal offered not only a viable way to secure the future of the Boat School, but also the promise of expanded private sector employment and economic growth for the Eastport area,” Raye said.
Husson University, which had operated the Boat School for several years, announced earlier this year that it no longer will lease the facility. With Marlow’s withdrawal, the future of the school is bleak. Established in 1977, it is the country’s oldest boat-building school. It originally was operated by Washington County Community College and then leased to Husson University.
Raye said he hopes to have a conversation with Marlow to see whether he will reconsider. “This has severe ramifications to the Boat School and to the jobs that were envisioned,” he said.
Still, the officials said, the property remains a major asset for Eastport. “We are not going to look back,” Peacock said. “We are going forward.”
Several right-of-way encumbrances on the property were cleared through legislative action earlier this year in anticipation of Marlow’s purchase. “The city now has free and clear title to the property,” Peacock said, which will help in marketing the facility. “None of that work will go to waste.”
Peacock said the city now will concentrate on marketing the Deep Cove facility.
“The Eastport assets of the Deep Cove property, the airport, the port, the working waterfront, tidal power development, the artist community, the beautiful downtown, and especially the dedicated work ethic of its work force that attracted the Marlow organization originally, are still in place,” Peacock said.