What to do with Bridgton Memorial School?

SCRUTINIZED AT DEPTH — Now that an environmental site analysis has identified where contamination is located at the 4.6-acre former Memorial School site, it’s time for residents to take the next step, and envision how the property could be redeveloped to best meet the needs of the community. To that end, a public charette will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. at Stevens Brook Elementary School. A site walk will be held that day on the Memorial School property at 4 p.m.

SCRUTINIZED AT DEPTH — Now that an environmental site analysis has identified where contamination is located at the 4.6-acre former Memorial School site, it’s time for residents to take the next step, and envision how the property could be redeveloped to best meet the needs of the community. To that end, a public charette will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. at Stevens Brook Elementary School. A site walk will be held that day on the Memorial School property at 4 p.m.

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton town officials are edging closer to the day of decision on a master plan for redevelopment of the former Memorial School property.

A public brainstorming session, or public charette similar to one held around five years ago, has been scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 9, to receive ideas on how the 4.6-acre site on Depot Street could be redeveloped to best serve the community. The session will begin with a site walk of the property at 4 p.m., followed by the charette at 5 p.m. at Stevens Brook Elementary School.

Leading the visioning session will be Anne Krieg, Bridgton’s director of planning, economic and community development, along with representatives from the Greater Portland Council of Governments and consultants Ransom Consulting and Richardson & Associates.

“The options are limitless but we need a plan to get things moving,” Krieg said. “It’s important for the residents and business owners to participate in the planning process.”

A second meeting has been tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 5 p.m., during which Krieg hopes to see a master plan finally taking shape, in preparation for a town-wide vote next June.

“To make this project work, we need your two cents on how the property should be developed!” Krieg stated on the town’s website. Many in town consider the site, located near to the Bridgton Community Center and Stevens Brook Elementary School, an ideal location for some sort of community-use facility, easily accessible to downtown residents.

Others have envisioned the property as quite suitable, in terms of walkability, for a senior or affordable housing complex. Still others see it as a great location for a light manufacturing or high-tech industrial development.

The charette will include exercises designed to help residents think about what kinds of development are appropriate. “And yes, there will be food,” Krieg said.

Krieg hopes residents in town can come to a clear consensus on a redevelopment plan over the next few months, in order to take advantage of available funding through several state and federal programs.

Consultants from the Greater Portland Council of Governments gave a re-use report to Bridgton Selectmen recently that listed total conceptual costs of $548,000 to cleanup all identified sources of contamination on the site, which served as the depot terminal for the Narrow Gauge Railroad prior to the school’s construction in 1949. Interestingly, a Phase II environmental site analysis conducted in 2011 through the state’s Brownfields program found more problematic issues at or around the school itself rather than from the rail yard.

The study found no PCBs in the school’s window caulking, which would have made the project significantly more expensive. Asbestos was found, as was lead paint, and underground storage tanks will need to be removed.

Once a master plan is created, town meeting voters will be asked if they want the town to take over the school property from SAD 61, and then turn the property over to a third party, which is required under the Brownfields program funding guidelines.

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