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A Hint of Things to Come?

Two new “Brainerd Place” concept plans have been published by the “Retail Real Estate Consultants” engaged by the present owner/developer of the Elmcrest campus. These plans have appeared online in an attempt to attract retail tenants to the site. While the owner and developers of the Elmcrest site state that their concept plans are very preliminary, this does not bode well.

The marketing plans are at significant variance from all three concept plans prepared by the town’s own consultant team. These three concept plans were the result of an intensive study of the site by professional planners and real estate marketing experts that was supported by a Vibrant Communities Initiative state investment grant of $50,000. These three resulting plans were informed by strong community engagement and input during three open town-wide meetings. Finally, these VCI plans were endorsed by the Board of Selectmen.

“Brainerd Place” is what the current residential developer is calling the Elmcrest Campus redevelopment. The branding borrows the family name associated with the site for much of the 19th century. Erastus Brainerd, a Portland brownstone quarry owner, constructed the one house on the property that the developer plans to reuse (to house the residential leasing office and tenant amenities).

It is important to emphasize that the developer’s marketing plans only show this one historic house preserved while all three concept plans endorsed by the community process show three historic structures preserved. A large, central parking lot is shown where the historic Hart-Jarvis House is demolished and a new retail building occupies the current site of the Jonathan Sage House. And while the community plans all showed an open town green space fronting the three historic structures, the developer’s concept plans show a vestigial green space wedged between the Brainerd House and the residential block.

(“Brainerd Place” Concept 1 and Concept 2 site plans are identical except that the latter shows new building “A” as a slightly smaller footprint and suggests a single tenant in its outline.)

The marketing plans for “Brainerd Place,” while supposedly preliminary according to the developer, have much more in common with the original plans of 2007 than the community-endorsed plans of 2015. The 2007 plan was approved by the Planning & Zoning Commission (with much controversy) but was never constructed due to the economic recession. The developer’s marketing plans show much more housing on the site, but also an ambitious retail development with the large parking lots that this requires. One wonders who these retail tenants might be?

Rest assured that if this plan is presented in an application to the Town’s Planning & Zoning Commission, there will (again) be an enormous outcry from the community and organized opposition. Does the developer really want to see that movie again? The ECAC welcomes your thoughts and comments.

For initial reaction to these marketing plans, see the following press:

“Portland’s Elmcrest Redevelopment Should Keep Historic Homes,” (Editorial), The Hartford Courant,” September 25, 2015.

“Elmcrest Site Remains Unchanged Despite Online Plans,” John Tyczkowski, RiverEast News Bulletin, September 18, 2015.

“Historic Buildings Might be Demolished Under Plan,” Erik Hesselberg, The Hartford Courant,” September 14, 2015.

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