BELFAST, Maine — The founder of Belfast’s indoor farmers market has purchased a downtown boat workshop and plans a major redevelopment along Belfast’s waterfront.
Paul Naron ironed out a deal to purchase a workshop from boatbuilder French & Webb on Friday. It’s Naron’s second major Belfast waterfront real estate deal in as many years. He met with a contractor to talk about a few ideas for the site Monday.
“We don’t know what we’re going to do with this building yet,” Naron said during a tour of his new property. “But it’s going to be better than good — a community-minded use.”
French & Webb, a company that’s been building and renovating yachts and boat parts since 1996, recently finished moving out of the workshop, but will continue to operate in Belfast. The company leases a pair of buildings on Front Street, where it operates workshops and has office space.
“[We] are not cutting roots to Belfast, nor to the people who have helped them find success in their niche,” the company wrote in a Monday news release. “The business is simply passing on the property for a better purpose while expanding to meet client needs where they are.”
The boatbuilder bought the building in 2005 from credit card giant MBNA. Until then, it had been used for storage.
The workshop is the second major waterfront property Naron has acquired.
Renovations are already underway at the former Consumers Fuel building, a red garage with an arched roof that Naron bought in March 2017. Crews are tearing out insulation and old windows, gutting the building in preparation for fresh construction.
Naron said he’d likely redevelop the old garage into a pub or restaurant, but stressed that idea is flexible and could change. Larger windows will be installed to open a view of Belfast’s bustling harbor, and the space could also feature a large wood-fired brick oven.
One of the first visible changes Naron made to the waterfront came in May 2017, when he hosted a party celebrating his purchase of the building. He surprised his guests by tearing down a fence that had previously divided the city’s Harbor Walk in two. The removal of the fence linked a pair of popular waterfront parks and ended the requirement that walkers loop around private properties to continue their trek along the water.
This spring, he tore down an old coal storage shed behind the Consumer Fuels building, clearing another obstruction to the path.
“I think I’m the best steward for these properties,” Naron said. “Now we control this stretch of the Harbor Walk, and we can ensure it stays open and vibrant.”
In 2017, Naron opened an indoor farmers market featuring artisans, farmers and vendors from Waldo County and beyond. He said the latest additions to his properties would be good for the community and could draw people to and from the nearby market.
Naron said it was too early to say when the two newest redevelopment projects might be completed.
“Sometime between now and before I die,” he said.
Follow Nick McCrea on Twitter at @nmccrea213.
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