Construction to start on mixed use redevelopment of riverfront site

By Stuart Hedstrom 
Staff Writer

    DOVER-FOXCROFT — In the ensuing few months passersby will begin to see and hear work being done on the Riverfront Redevelopment Project, at the former home of Moosehead Manufacturing and the Mayo mill, as construction transforms the downtown property into a mixed-used site. The public had the opportunity to learn about what has been done so far and all the plans for the future during a forum July 23 at the Center Theatre.

    “This is really a transformational project for Dover-Foxcroft and Piscataquis County,” Piscataquis County Economic Development Council (PCEDC) Community Development Specialist Dr. Ken Woodbury said to begin the forum.
    “In order to move this project forward we had to remove a lot of lead paint and asbestos, ” Dr. Woodbury said about work taking place at the present time to remove the hazardous substances from the riverfront property. “You have to deconstruct before you construct.”
    Dr. Woodbury said the redevelopment will be conducted by the Arnold Development Group of Kansas City, Mo., an entity “selected as the developer of the project through a competitive process between the town of Dover-Foxcroft and the Pine Crest Development Corporation.” He said the Pine Crest Development Corporation, which assumed ownership of the property over the last few years during the grant application process, is an offshoot of the town and owns the business park off Route 7.
    Arnold Development Corporation President Jonathan Arnold explained how the corporation has conducted multi-million dollar development projects in the Kansas City area, converting former long vacant buildings into mixed-use properties with the structures being used for retail and office space, apartments and more. Arnold showed a slideshow of numerous before and after images of refurbished properties in the River Market neighborhood of Kansas City, which he said help draw people in to the downtown.
    Arnold presented information on future demographic trends indicating a more pedestrian-based, non-suburban sprawl lifestyle with less transportation costs and smaller sized families with fewer or no children. “When we look for places to develop, we look at places that are central to town,” Arnold said, as these locations fit within emerging demographic trends.
    “Why Dover-Foxcroft?,” Arnold said about choosing the riverfront site. “The strong sense of community we felt the day we came here.” He listed a number of assets the town has, such as Foxcroft Academy, “this theatre that’s been renovated, the hospital, the grocery store, the river, access to nature, the library, two hardware stores, the history and authenticity.”
    With these assets already in place, having a large property that could be redeveloped nearby made for a very intriguing project for the Arnold Development Corporation to look into before deciding to proceed with a redevelopment plan. “What are we going to put in the mill?,” Arnold said the structure and property will house an event space, small business space, a restaurant and cafe, patio overlooking the Piscataquis River, a boutique inn, 22 rental apartments (one- and two-bedroom units of varying square footages), a data center, arts and crafts center, space for a farmer’s market, river walk and more.
    Arnold said the site is being redeveloped for a variety of uses, which is more beneficial for the developer because this spreads risk into a variety of areas as opposed to have the site being used solely for one purpose such as commercial space. Using lines on the screen to demonstrate the various connections of a list of downtown attractions, Arnold showed where residents may take their friends during a visit to Dover-Foxcroft.
    “What’s neat about this is you haven’t had to get in your car for any of this,” he said, as all the destinations, those that will be part of the riverfront property and others already in existence, are all within walking distance. He said the building will have “an internal street” so those going between some of the establishments will not have to walk outside.
    “Wright-Ryan we have selected as our construction manager,” Arnold said about the Portland-based firm which has done similar projects to redevelop mills elsewhere in Maine. Arnold said the project is currently within budget, with cleanup under way and construction financing being finalized.
    “Our plan is for construction to start this fall and we will have a website launch in mid-August,” he said. The website at is scheduled to up and running on Aug. 15, and the site will include information on the project and enable potential apartment renters to view floor plans and prices and get on the list of leasers.
    “We will be applying for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designation) as much as we can,” Arnold said about the green certification. The site has the potential to be powered entirely by green energy sources, such as the dam on the Piscataquis River and with solar panels planned for the building roof. “The hydro dam should produce three times more power than it needs,” Arnold said.
    The forum featured a number of questions from those in attendance and the first inquired about the historical preservation on site. “All of the historic elements are going to be preserved,” Arnold said. He said the building windows are being replaced with components matching the originals as close as possible.
    “The reconstruction has to meet the requirements of the Maine Historic Commission,” Dr. Woodbury said. “There are both federal and Maine historic tax credits being used to finance this redevelopment.”
    He said a chimney visible as a part of the Dover-Foxcroft skyline “is one of the those seven structures that has to be preserved.” Dr. Woodbury said the chimney will be used to support a WI-FI system, which will be placed on the inside, hidden from view.
    Arnold said e-mails have already been received about those looking to reside in the apartments, and “with the businesses we have some letters of intent.”
    Dr. Woodbury said of 12 business suites on the first floor, eight are spoken for which would equal 82 jobs. “All of the eight are from out of state,” he said.
    A later question asked if these jobs would be filled by residents or those moving to the area. Arnold replied, “I think the calculation was a combination of both.”
    Arnold said the businesses being brought in are intended to be complementary to the establishments already in town. “We are very sensitive to that and we want to be a healthy addition rather than unhealthy competition,” he said. “We see it as our job to provide a platform for businesses to succeed.”
    Dr. Woodbury later said the businesses would service niches that are not already in the community. “For instance in this area we don’t have a data center,” he said.
    When asked about construction timelines, Arnold said, saying that with such work there are always factors beyond a developer’s control, “The goal is to have the building placed and serviced by 2014.” He said the construction period is scheduled to last for nine months, “but there are always things that can cause delays. We are optimistic that by next September or October the building will be operational.”
    A question was asked if local contractors would be used on the redevelopment. Wright-Ryan President John Ryan said, “As Jonathan mentioned, we do a lot of these projects and one of our objectives is to employ as many local people as we can.”
    Ryan said providing work for area contractors is a component of the economic development, and they will work with the PCEDC to get local tradesmen involved. “There are lots of opportunities for local people to participate and we will give them an opportunity,” he said.
    The next question asked was about the impact of flooding from Piscataquis River. “Our approach is the building has been around for 105, 106 years,” Arnold said. He said there is risk being located right next to the water way, but the benefits of the location outweigh the risk.
    Arnold said a structural engineer went through the building, and did find some instances of wood rot that will need to be addressed, but said “the building is in phenomenal shape for its age.”
    The total project cost is in the range of $10 million, and Arnold said a contract is in place to purchase the property from the Pine Crest Development Corporation. “The town will benefit from certain taxes,” he said, as well as the revenue from the hydro and water and sewer fees.
    Arnold concluded the evening by saying the long-term redevelopment, possibly over two decades, will result in a profit, but that is not the sole reason for being involved. “We want to look back on projects we will be proud of,” he said, as the redevelopment helps revitalize the downtown area.

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