Macdonald’s property: ripe to develop?

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

HUNDRED PERCENT CORNER — is an urban planning term used to describe the heart of a town, a sense of having arrived at the town itself. The Macdonald family, owners of Macdonald Motors, own three buildings on the southwestern corner at the intersection of Main Street and Portland Road in Bridgton. Members of the Community Development Committee will be talking to the Macdonalds about their redevelopment ideas for the corner at their meeting next Monday, Dec. 19, at 7 a.m. in the Bridgton Municipal Complex.

Bridgton’s Community Development Committee plans to meet next Monday, Dec. 19 with the Macdonald family, owners of Macdonald Motors, to talk about redevelopment options now that voters have passed higher-density zoning rules at Pondicherry Square.

The Macdonald family owns three buildings on the southwestern corner of the intersection of Main Street and Portland Road — a small shop, home to Stone Surface & Granite, right on the corner; a larger building next door, once the home of Macdonald Motors; and another sizable building beside that, next to Rick Marston’s former Peg-a-Leg Pete’s store.

If all three buildings were torn down and replaced by a multi-use, multi-story complex fronting Stevens Brook, the redevelopment could have a long-term positive impact on the revitalization of downtown, some believe.

Bridgton’s Economic and Community Development Director, Alan Manoian, said he met around four months ago with Dan, Robert and Bill Macdonald to present a concept design for redevelopment of the properties. Manoian said the site has caught the eye of successful restauranteur Jimmy Burke of Pembroke, Mass., who owns and operates the Orta Restaurant in Pembroke. Manoian said Burke summers in the Greater Bridgton area, and is interested in selling his Massachusetts interests and making Maine his year-round home.

“They love Bridgton,” Manoian said of Burke and his wife Joanie, who are nearing retirement age and want to reshape their business interests there. It all depends on Tuesday’s vote, he added, since without the ability to put apartments on the upper floors, Burke would not be able to make the numbers work.

Manoian suggested that the town could capture tax increment financing and/or use a portion of the town’s Community Development Block Grant funding to partner with the Macdonalds in having the redevelopment be the first step in creation of a Riverfront Promenade. Such a promenade could extend from Pondicherry Park, along lower Depot Street all the way to Pondicherry Park, he said.

Committee members are also recommending to selectmen that six spaces in the municipal parking lot on Depot Street be approved for overnight parking, in order to keep cars off Depot Street to allow for plowing in the winter.

If parking is to be allowed on Depot Street, the committee believes it should only be allowed on the side housing the Bridgton Community Center, and that proper sidewalks should be constructed with curbing up to the bridge by the Community Center. Currently, there is no curbing, and cars of persons living in the apartment houses on the street commonly park in such a way as to cut the sidewalk off.

“That street is just too damn narrow, you can’t have parking on both sides,” said Committee Chairman Mike Tarantino. “We feel that (sidewalks and overnight parking in the municipal lot) will improve the whole area.”

At its last meeting, the committee also received an outline of possible future planning projects from Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz. The memo stresses the need for partnerships among the various town-appointed committees and suggests combining efforts with SAD 61 as well, to create training programs in conjunction with business attraction efforts.

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