Buyer hopes to bring movies back to Falmouth Route 1 shopping center

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FALMOUTH — One of the largest properties along the Route 1 corridor is under new ownership.

Falmouth Plaza, home to Wal-Mart and until 2012 the Regal Cinema movie theater, has been sold to Camden developer Matthew Orne.

Orne on Friday, March 25, said he purchased the property as Foreside Place LLC, based on Milk Street in Portland.

The property was previously owned and managed by GL Rogers &  Co., based in York Harbor.

Orne declined to disclose terms of the acquisition.

Orne said he started looking into purchasing the 13-acre plaza about a year ago. He also owns nearby Foreside Place at 202 U.S. Route 1, where office tenants include Northeast Financial Group, Falmouth Dental Arts, Orchid Thai restaurant and others. It was also home to alternative health-care provider True North, which closed at the end of 2015

Wal-Mart, the town’s only big-box store, had planned on expanding into the Falmouth Plaza space left vacant when Regal closed, but eventually scrapped those plans. The expansion would have called for tearing down the theater portion of the building and expanding Wal-Mart from 92,000 square feet to 124,000 square feet. Wal-Mart was granted permission to expand in 2010.

The former theater has remained vacant ever since, although Wal-Mart leases the entire building. Orne said he would like to bring a movie theater back to the plaza, but that would require Wal-Mart to surrender the lease.

“We’re trying to make it happen,” Orne said. “It requires Wal-Mart’s cooperation since they have a lease on the space. I suspect it will get done eventually, but working with big companies is not as easy as it should be sometime.”

He said if Wal-Mart surrenders the lease, there is room for 15,000 to 18,000 square feet of development.

“We’re trying to figure out how to put all the pieces together in a way that makes sense,” he said.

Another vacancy in the plaza came at the tail end of 2015, when a free-standing Wendy’s fast-food restaurant unexpectedly closed after almost 15 years. Orne said there has been interest from “several restaurants” to occupy the space.

That property is listed for lease by Portland-based Compass Commercial Brokers. Compass is also listing available space at Foreside Place.

Orne also owns a vacant lot on Hat Trick Drive, which runs behind Wal-Mart, and a house at 46 Depot Road that has provided offices for several real estate companies. Orne said he would like to develop these parcels in conjunction with the town’s vision for the Route 1 commercial corridor, although there are no specific plans.

“We’ve thrown ideas around,” he said, for commercial and residential projects. “… Hopefully over next six months or so we’ll come up with some plan that makes economic sense.”

Carriage House Square, a small strip of stores and offices surrounded by Falmouth Plaza at the corner of U.S. Route 1 and Clearwater Drive, is not owned by Orne. Businesses there include Bernie’s restaurant, Mr. Bagel, the Vision Center, Primp Salon and Hugs restaurant.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

The Falmouth Plaza, home to Wal-Mart, was recently purchased by Camden developer Matthew Orne.

This house at 46 Depot Road in Falmouth is also owned by Camden developer Matthew Orne, who recently purchased the adjacent Falmouth Plaza.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.