Old garage going green with commercial redevelopment

By Gail Geraghty
Staff Writer

Bridgton eco-home builder Justin McIver is putting his energy-conscious skills to work with plans to replace an eyesore on Depot Street with a new four-unit

REMNANTS OF THE PAST — This property, next to the Depot Street entrance to Renys department store in Bridgton, is slated for redevelopment as a four-unit commercial building with both retail and office space.

retail/office building that would serve as the new home of Loon Echo Land Trust.

The Bridgton Planning Board will review the project at its next meeting on Tuesday, April 5 at 7 p.m. in the Bridgton Municipal Center.

McIver is buying the John Crowley property to the right of the side entrance to Renys department store, on Corn Shop Brook, which now contains what remains of an old garage and livery stable. Instead of run-down buildings, McIver sees a vision for Depot Street’s future: a classy, high-performance energy efficient building with a deck overlooking Corn Shop Brook for first-floor retail use.

McIver already has a tenant for the retail space, but he’s not saying who just yet. Loon Echo Executive Director Carrie Walia said the land trust is negotiating to lease the second floor for office space.

“I’m excited about it,” McIver said. The building will have decorative trim and 50% recycled fiber cement siding similar to that used at the Magic Lantern Theater.

“I think that it will be another nice positive thing for the downtown, and I want to set the mark for new building techniques and codes for the future buildings in downtown,” he said.

McIver has been working on his design with Alan Manoian, director of Bridgton’s Office of Economic and Community Development. Manoian said the 30-foot by 56-foot building has been designed in keeping with form-based codes, so that it will blend harmoniously with the old GAR building next door, home to the Bridgton Art Guild, and build-to-sidewalk lines matching other properties on Depot Street.

Several months ago, Manoian put McIver in touch with Loon Echo Land Trust officials, who he knew were looking for new professional space.

Walia said the land trust has outgrown the space it has rented for the past 10 years at the Lakes Environmental Association headquarters on Main Street.

“Our staff is growing, and we’ve been researching a move for the past four or five months,” Walia said. She said McIver’s project appealed to the organization partly because of his eco-building emphasis, and “just being on Depot Street, with all the potential that it offers for future development and growth.”

Plus, right across the street is the big town-owned parking lot serving Renys, the Bridgton Community Center and the Magic Lantern Theater — and beyond that, the Bob Dunning Bridge, leading to Pondicherry Park, a 66-acre intown nature park that LELT was instrumental in developing.

“While we’ve been grateful (to LEA for providing office space), it’s time for us to spread our wings and get our own identity,” Walia said.

Code Enforcement Officer Robbie Baker said Corn Shop Brook doesn’t come under the town’s shoreland zoning ordinance, allowing McIver to build close to the brook. McIver said he plans to construct a path along the brook and even build a bridge over the brook, so retail customers can cross over it while doing their shopping.

McIver said the building will not use any fossil fuels for heating; it will be heated by high efficiency electric heaters and be prepped for solar heating. It will also be super-insulated, with a fresh air ventilation system and air conditioning — just like the office space he renovated at his father’s business, DM Electric, for Bridgton Dental Hygiene Care, as well as his own business, Main Eco Homes.

“It’s going to have a positive impact on the environment,” he said. At age 28, McIver said he is “part of the younger generation of professionals” working to build Bridgton’s future. “I hope this sparks others” to make similar investments, he added.

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