BANGOR, Maine — A $4.5 million retail plaza project on Stillwater Avenue is expected to create 80 to 100 construction jobs and another 150 to 200 part- and full-time retail jobs after it opens.
Pending approval from the Bangor Planning Board and Bangor City Council, a South Portland developer could break ground on Stillwater Crossing, a 65,500-square-foot retail plaza at 461 Stillwater Ave., as early as September.
“We expect to have 18 to 24 different businesses with space needs ranging from 1,800 to 18,000 square feet,” said Vincent Maietta, Stillwater Crossing’s principal owner and developer. “Possibly small real estate, medical offices, retail. … It’s pretty flexible.”
The first confirmed tenant is Buffalo Wild Wings grill and bar — one of the top 10 fastest-growing restaurant chains in the U.S., according to the company’s website. The 30-year-old business has 850 locations nationwide.
“I believe this will be our 550th franchise with the other 300 being corporate-owned,” said Jeff Applegate, franchise owner and operating partner. “We typically hire upwards of 150 people. It’s going to be approximately 7,000 square feet with seating for 280 people.”
The one-story development, which will have a widened, elongated V-shape, will occupy the space that was the Queen City Trailer Park from 1965 to 2000.
“It’s shaped like a boomerang and there’s a gap in the middle where we can put a courtyard for outdoor seating and eating,” said Maietta, president of V&E Enterprises Inc. of South Portland.
Maietta, 54, is a real estate developer with 30 years of experience in the business. He has more than 40 industrial, commercial and residential tenants in Maine, but this will be his first real estate holding in Bangor.
“Bangor has been so nice to deal with through the last couple years while working on behalf of Buffalo Wild Wings, and now with this,” said Maietta, who has done site location work for the restaurant chain in the past. “A lot of the southern areas of the state aren’t quite as warm and welcoming for businesses, and we go where the business is. They actually welcome you and want you to come up there and build something.”
“This is a significant project and to see something of this size moving forward in this economy is a sign that investors are as excited about the Bangor market as we are,” said Tanya Pereira, Bangor’s business development specialist. “The construction impact will be major and the long-term job creation with the mix of tenants they’re looking at is also very exciting.”
Maietta is also vice president of Maietta Construction, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in July 2010 related to fuel price increases and a drop in construction work demand. A bankruptcy judge approved Maietta Construction’s reorganization plan and cleared the South Portland company to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2011.
Aaron Shaw, a senior project manager with James W. Sewall Co. — an Old Town consulting and engineering firm handling site engineering and design work for Stillwater Crossing LLC — said construction should be much quicker than normal, despite the size of the project, as most of the site’s infrastructure is already in place on the site because work was done a few years ago when construction plans were approved for a Shaw’s Supermarket there.
The construction of a 50,000-square-foot Shaw’s got the necessary approvals from city agencies in 2007, but the plan was put on hold and eventually shelved because of the stagnant economy.
Stillwater bought the 99-year lease for the property previously held by Shaw’s parent company Supervalu from the estate of original developer Bud Grant. Maietta said the lease still has 94 years left to run.
“We’re glad Sewall Company’s involved and I’m excited to see a project like this come to the area,” said Shaw, who visited the weed-choked, overgrown Stillwater Avenue site — across from Texas Roadhouse and near both the Interstate 95 offramp and entrance to the Bangor Mall Cinemas 10 — on Wednesday morning to host a public informational meeting about the project.
Stillwater’s development plan could come before Bangor’s planning board as soon as August, according to project and city officials.
The Stillwater Crossing plan calls for a 328-space parking lot, but the number of stores is undetermined as it depends on the size of the stores, offices and restaurants leasing retail space.
Buffalo Wild Wings officials say they hope to be open by Thanksgiving.
“I’ll be coming up in October,” said Applegate, an Albany, N.Y., native who has been coming to Maine for vacations for the last 30 years. “About three or four years ago, we sold three restaurants in the Midwest and I said I was going to move to Maine.”
Applegate said his restaurant will fill a niche in the Bangor area.
“There is not anything this large or of this type in the market,” he said. “We have a large space, we have 30 beers on tap, and the audio-visual system itself is our wow factor with 75 total TVs, 10 of which are large 8-by-4 projector screens, and another that’s 16-by-8.”
This is the end of a two-year search by Wild Wings officials, who were close to leasing a space near Kohl’s Plaza across the street a few months ago, but the deal fell through.
“That lot has been the source of speculation for a long time now and it’s gratifying to see it come to its development potential,” said Pereira, referring to 461 Stillwater Ave.
It wasn’t too long ago that Bangor had a higher rate of big-box store space vacancies than the national average. Could this — along with an uptick in the number of restaurant openings, new arena construction and casino expansion — herald a Bangor business boom?
“I don’t think it’s a boom necessarily, but Bangor’s open for business and it’s a proactive business community that’s willing to grow,” said Maietta. “I was talking to someone at Bangor City Hall and they told me Bangor’s open for business. Well, I believe it.”