ORONO, Maine — The vacant building at the Rangeley Road entrance to the University of Maine has a new owner and coffee, energy drinks, pastries and free Wi-Fi will be available there soon.
Paul Bouchard, who owns an Aroma Joe’s and Subway restaurant on Warren Avenue in Portland, received planning board approval Wednesday to change the empty building into a drive-thru Aroma Joe’s restaurant.
“There is no intercom,” Bouchard said. “It’s very friendly and customer driven. We serve great coffee and energy drinks and have pastries and doughnuts. We have Wi-Fi so the kids can do homework.”
The site has interior seating for up to 49 people. The developer will have to move the entrance because the Maine Department of Transportation is planning to add a roundabout at the end of Rangeley Road, said project engineer Sean Thies of Civil Engineering Service Inc. of Brewer.
The roundabout, estimated to cost $1.65 million, is one of 425 MDOT capital projects listed for 2014.
“The DOT is recommending we move the driveway to this property as far east as we can,” Thies told town planners. “Depending on what happens next door, that could be a shared entrance.”
A gas station, convenience store and eatery are planned for next door, at the former Ushuaia nightclub, Bouchard said, adding he’s not really worried about them stealing his customers because his clientele seek a laid-back place to enjoy a good beverage.
A public hearing for a planned 270-unit student housing complex at the end of Washburn Drive, was continued after the coffee shop got its approval.
New York-based Park 7 Group, which has built other student housing developments in other areas of the country, is calling the planned Orono development The Avenue.
Beejan Savabi, vice president of property management for Park 7 Group, traveled to Maine to address the panel about concerns raised last month by residents and Police Chief Josh Ewing. Residents wanted to know how developers were going to stop trash from blowing all over the place and prevent underage or large parties.
“We have to hire one or two police officers to live on-site, for a reduced rent in exchange [for performing some security duties],” Savabi said.
Additional security would be added, when needed, he said.
“Our interests are very much aligned,” Savabi said. “Having a strong manager is a very big part of that.”
Having a police presence has worked at other locations, he said, adding littering would be addressed through the lease.
“We have very strict and detailed leases to prevent issues like that,” Savabi said.
The project’s site plan is a clustered subdivision consisting of 270 multibedroom units, built in two phases, that are expected to house between 850 and 925 students. The locations of the buildings were changed to allow for a trail that would connect the Orchard Trails subdivision land to the south to the Piney Knoll Conservation Area to the north, requested by members of the Orono Land Trust.
Planners said they liked the inclusion of pervious pavement as part of the stormwater waste management plan but wanted more details, which were provided by design engineer Paul Monyok and landscape architect Paul Brody of WBRC Architects and Engineers in Bangor.
Orono Town Planner Evan Richert said the developers have a lot to accomplish before the final plan goes before the planning board. He said an easement is needed with the adjacent rail line, owned by Pan Am Railway, for the planned emergency entrance on the Penobscot River side of the project, that a 25-foot buffer is questionable in one area of the plan, and there is nothing in writing about the required shuttle bus.
When it comes to vernal pool habitations, which were affected by the original plan and raised as a concern by residents, “they now meet the requirement,” Richert said.
Discussion on the project was again continued by planners so it will be on the May planning board agenda.