Developers invited to ‘brainstorm’ about Route 1 in Falmouth

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FALMOUTH — The town is sponsoring a developers forum to help explore opportunities along the U.S. Route 1 commercial corridor.

The forum will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at Lunt Auditorium, at 74 Lunt Road.

Anyone with interest is invited to attend, but Theo Holtwijk, Falmouth’s director of Long-Range Planning and Economic Development, said the event is specifically aimed at the business community.

“The town doesn’t do private development, but there may be opportunities for partnership. We also want to draw attention to the fact that our commercial corridor has excellent highway access, a great population base and is a good place for investment,” Holtwijk said.

“We (want) to increase awareness in the Greater Portland development community about possible development opportunities in Falmouth, have a frank conversation about commercial corridor redevelopment and possibly stimulate future projects,” he added.

Holtwijk said the goal for the developers forum is also to look at how to make it easier for development to fit in with the town’s overall vision for Route 1 as a walkable, attractive business district.

“We made a big effort to revitalize Route 1,” he said, so now “we want to brainstorm about how to enhance development. And we don’t just want to do this on a theoretical level. We’re also looking for practical solutions.”

“We know we have sites with potential, so maybe we can do some matchmaking between those who have ideas and those who have properties to develop,” Holtwijk said. “We have no pre-determined outcome, we just want to have the conversation.”

There is no fee to participate in the forum and no need to RSVP. According to Holtwijk, the town is simply inviting anyone with an interest to “just show up. We have no idea who will come or how many, but we can only gain by bringing people together for cross-pollination and discussion.”

In addition to the town, the other sponsors of the forum are GrowSmart Maine, the Greater Portland Council of Governments, the Maine Real Estate & Development Association, the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Falmouth-Cumberland Community Chamber and the Portland Society of Architecture.

Three years ago, the town completed a $12 million infrastructure investment in the Route 1 commercial area and adopted new village-style zoning rules.

“The objectives were to transform the corridor from an automobile-based, suburban service center to a pedestrian-friendly, pedestrian-scaled New England village center,” according to the forum invitation.

Overall, it said, “The town envisions a dense pattern of development in the Route 1 area with activities day and night, a variety of uses, including residential, and an emphasis on a safe and attractive pedestrian environment.”

To support that vision, the town has adopted new rules that increase building height to 65 feet, create front setbacks, require parking to be placed in the rear and to the side of buildings and that prohibit new drive-through restaurants.

As part of the discussion at next week’s forum, the hope is to answer three core questions, Holtwijk said”

“Where on Route 1 do you see opportunities that will help to realize the town’s vision? What can the town do to make these opportunities more apparent and attractive? (And), are there challenges to develop these types of projects?”

Holtwijk said the town “wants to be realistic” and wants to find out if there are now challenges to development, including its design rules and other regulatory hurdles.

He said the town also wants to know if there are other issues that developers are facing, in terms of making Route 1 a priority for their projects, such as market risk or other financing concerns.

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

The new streetscape along Falmouth’s Route 1 commerical corridor.