BRUNSWICK — After months of anxiety over the $23.5 million Maine Street Station project, the town finally received some good news this week.
And just in time.
The federal agency holding the purse strings for a crucial $850,000 grant on Tuesday approved the town’s request to begin infrastructure work. Notice from the federal Economic Development Administration arrived after noon, just hours before the town’s self-imposed deadline to proceed with or without approval.
Approval from the EDA does not guarantee that the $850,000 is forthcoming, but it could safeguard the town from losing the funds because it began work on streets and utilities without knowing the grant was secure.
That scenario loomed last week when acting Town Manager Gary Brown told the Town Council that delays in the funding were threatening terms of the project’s development agreement and its viability.
Additionally, Brown said that the town was coming under pressure from its partner, JHR Development. JHR’s financing is dependent on the first phase of the project being completed this summer.
The town has already committed $2 million to Maine Street Station. The $850,000 from the EDA, as well as other grants, have been promised to offset the burden on taxpayers.
With the EDA grant still in play, the council’s decision last week becomes much less of a gamble.
“I’ll sleep a whole lot better tonight than I did last night,” Brown said Tuesday.
In its letter to the town, the EDA said it was authorizing early work to help “advance the project on a timely basis.”
“Now it’s full-speed ahead,” Brown said.
The project site was buzzing with construction activity Tuesday. Steel framing for one of two 18,700-square-foot buildings was complete and workers were busy erecting wooden framing for the roof. That work was being done by JHR.
The town is responsible for infrastructure work – streets, parking and utilities. It’s also responsible for any remaining coal-ash remediation.
Brown said Tuesday that coal-ash clean-up is complete to “the best of the town’s knowledge,” but that it remains responsible for any contaminants discovered during infrastructure work.
EDA funding is contingent on certification of remediation.
The grant is also dependent on the State Historic Preservation Office and its approval of architectural designs for a 60-room inn at the corner of Maine and Noble streets.
The inn is scheduled for the second phase of Maine Street Station. Its site plan is expected to be reviewed by the Planning Board and Village Review Board this spring or summer.