Brunswick restaurant's greenhouse plans move forward, add bakery

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BRUNSWICK — New designs for a two-story greenhouse behind Tao Yuan restaurant on Pleasant Street were approved by the Village Review Board Tuesday night.

They will go to the Planning Board July 26.

The project was initially approved in April of last year, but has been reconfigured to include, among other things, space for a retail bakery and cafe.

The building will primarily function as a recirculating ecosystem: fish in basement tanks will create waste, which will be converted into nitrates by bacteria. That nitrate-rich water will then be pumped up into an aquaponic greenhouse, where growing plants will take in the nutrients. Clean water then flows back down to the fish tanks.

“It’s a happy system of growing plants with a nice byproduct of fish,” Tao Yuan farm coordinator Kate Holcomb said. The fish will probably be trout, she added.

Architect David Matero presented design updates for the greenhouse building.

The aesthetic aim, he said, “is (to create) something that is sort of unique, but at the same time sort of fits into the neighborhood.” To accomplish this, the first floor is meant to match the nearby condominiums on Abbey Road, with fiber cement siding and recycled trim.

The greenhouse above “will be more contemporary … a very light structure,” he said. It will be surrounded by a metal grate walk.

To respond to concerns from neighbors, a horizontal curtain that will deploy at night has been added to conceal the greenhouse lights, almost like a blanket.

Cara Stadler, who owns Tao Yuan and Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland, and was a semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award, said Tuesday that she plans to open an 18-seat bakery and cafe.

The first floor will also house a commercial kitchen and office space.

Village Review Board members liked the new plans.

“I think the design is very exciting; I think it’s really been improved,” Chairman Gary Massanek said.

“I think this particular rendition meets our standards better than the last one,” board member Connie Lundquist said. “I think it’s a very exciting project.”

The board unanimously approved a certificate of appropriateness for the project, with the condition that the specifications for the greenhouse’s light fixtures be reviewed and approved by the town’s planning director before construction.

Stadler hopes to begin construction later this summer, and complete the project in about eight or 10 months, according to the application.

Walter Wuthmann can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or wwuthmann@theforecaster.net. Follow Walter on Twitter: @wwuthmann.

A rendering of a proposed new aquaponic greenhouse on Abbey Road in Brunswick, behind Tao Yuan restaurant on Pleasant Street.

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Brunswick/Harpswell reporter for The Forecaster. Bowdoin College grad, San Francisco Bay Area native. Follow for municipal, school, community, and environmental news from the Midcoast.