n-falshoppingcenter-012209 Falmouth waits for word on shopping center plans
FALMOUTH — Plans for a public design process to address the proposed redevelopment and expansion of the Falmouth Shopping Center are on hold while the town awaits further communication from the project's representative.
Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth's director of long-range planning, said Tuesday that he has been unable to reach Andrew Gilmore of ABG Strategies since early December. Gilmore represents JPA Corp. of Boston, owners of the Route 1 shopping center property and the 28 abutting acres slated for the expansion.
"I would have liked to have heard from him because I can only speculate," Holtwijk said. "I would like to think there are all sorts of reasons why he hasn't gotten back to us."
Discussion of the expansion project began during a Town Council executive session a year ago. At that time, councilors indicated they would like Town Manager Nathan Poore to pursue the proposal. They also instructed him to advise Gilmore they did not want the project discussed privately, but in front of the public.
Initially, discussion was targeted for July 2008, Poore said in August, but was pushed back to the fall.
During an Oct. 14 council workshop, Gilmore first presented the expansion concept, which would include redevelopment of the existing buildings. He said his client supported a "charette," or public design process, requested by the council.
Holtwijk said he and staff members met last November with Gilmore and consultant Mark Eyerman to review details of a proposal Eyerman had drawn up for the charette. At that time, they discussed the importance of meeting the needs of the community as well as the developer, and the structure required to give everyone the opportunity for "meaningful participation," he said. From their talk, it was determined the town would need an independent facilitator to conduct the process.
But since that meeting, Holtwijk's only communication with Gilmore was in early December, when the representative told Holtwijk he hadn't reached his client due to the holidays.
Gilmore last August said he had a "nationally recognized" tenant, without an existing presence in southern Maine, interested in anchoring the development. Although he declined to identify it as a big-box store, he did say "there has to be a threshold of square footage to make (the economics) work."
In mid-September, Gilmore said the property owners would continue to move forward with the plan even if the tenant withdrew. In early December, he said there was nothing new to report.
Gilmore did not return repeated phone calls this week.
While the shopping center commands a prominent site in the area, Holtwijk said it is only one piece in the Route 1 design puzzle. The council's Development Committee continues to work on design guidelines for the corridor that could be ready to present to the council as a whole sometime this spring, he said.
With further definition for the future of Route 1 design in place, he said he is hopeful that a redeveloped and expanded Falmouth Shopping Center will eventually be an important component of the next phase.
"I have to be patient and believe that if this is meant to happen, then
it will happen and will happen at the time it makes sense to do it," Holtwijk said.