January 26, 2020
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Old Town final redesign of old canoe factory unveiled

OLD TOWN, Maine — Planners working with resident volunteers have created designs to add retail space — possibly with an anchor store — mixed with two types of housing on the approximately 6-acre former Old Town Canoe factory site in the heart of the city.

“We want to be a destination,” Ron Harriman, the city’s economic development director, said Monday after the final downtown redevelopment plans were presented to the City Council.

City leaders have worked on what they hope will replace the former canoe and kayak manufacturing site since the century-old brick building was demolished in early 2014. They conducted a survey in mid-2014 and held two public meetings to see what residents wanted in the downtown redevelopment, and initial concept plans unveiled in June 2015 included a mixture of commercial and residential spaces.

Old Town Canoe, which was acquired by Johnson Outdoors in 1974, moved manufacturing from its Middle Street factory to a plant on Gilman Avenue in 2009. The company then sold the downtown site to the city for a $1 in 2011. The city was able to get a $600,000 EPA Brownfields grant to clean up the former factory site, and paid $147,000 to demolish the buildings.

Three retail or commercial spaces, one that is 20,000 square feet and two that are 8,000 square feet, as well as twin six-unit townhouses and a four-unit apartment building, are on the designs by James W. Sewell Co. unveiled Monday.

“If Trader Joe’s calls, we’ll take that call,” Harriman told the council.

After the meeting, Harriman said, “We are getting the word out and have contacted Trader Joe’s and Reny’s” about the possibility of opening a location in town.

Neither business has responded yet, he added.

Harriman said he would be happy to see a small hotel, a craft brewery or other commercial business take an interest in downtown.

The redevelopment of the former canoe factory is part of the larger downtown master plan, which is already showing progress, he said.

“We’re seeing some signs of encouragement downtown,” Harriman told the City Council.

After the meeting he said the two buildings adjacent to the town office have been sold and are under renovations, the city has a developer’s agreement to change the vacant Jefferson Street School into 16 apartments and there also are plans to add a wine and cheese store.

Councilor Linda McLeod asked how the information developed would be marketed and Council President David Mahan suggested it be posted on the city’s website.

“This is just a concept plan for what we would like to see,” Tim Folster, a member of the committee created to work on the city’s redevelopment plans, said to the panel.


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