Mixed-use project proposed for Falmouth school properties; other proposals remain sealed

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FALMOUTH — The deadline for submitting proposals to the town for the former school properties on Lunt Road passed at noon Tuesday, and at least one team of developers is already campaigning to win the bid.

While bids for the property will be sealed until the Town Council chooses a winner, Redfern Properties President Jonathan Culley and North Atlantic Properties President Jed Harris provided The Forecaster with a copy of their proposal. It will also be available online later this week.

“We want everyone in the community to get behind this,” Culley said Tuesday, about three hours before submitting the bid to create the mixed-use development called Falmouth Town Green.

Although they declined to say how much they will offer the town for the property, the developers said they expect to spend $13 million to build a small deli and farmers market; convert the Plummer building to an office building; provide the town the option of using the Motz building as a community center; create a town green that could later be deeded back to the town, and build an apartment building, townhouses and single-family homes.

As part of the proposal, the Friends School of Portland, a Quaker school, would purchase the Lunt School building and use it as is, while maintaining public access to the woods and trails behind the school. Friends School currently rents space on Mackworth Island.

There are no plans for a library.

The proposal comes after voters in June narrowly rejected a $5 million proposal to move Falmouth Memorial Library to Lunt School, turn Motz into a community center and renovate Plummer, depending on tenant interest. Property behind the schools would have been sold.

A trail system and federally protected land behind the Lunt School could still cause problems for the town, because it must offset sale of that property with the purchase of public land elsewhere. This issue is yet to be resolved, but Harris said he is confident the town could overcome that before any deal is finalized.

Harris said he sees the market and deli as an anchor that would draw tenants to the other commercial sites, comparing his vision for the building to Yarmouth’s Rosemont Market or the Bow Street Market in Freeport.

He said Plummer could have retail space on the first floor and medical offices on the second floor. He said he has experience updating old buildings and is considering applying for Historic Preservation tax credits, but that the proposal is not reliant on the credits.

Both Culley and Harris live in Falmouth. Culley grew up in town and attended Plummer-Motz and Lunt schools. His company, Redfern Properties, built one of the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design platinum-level homes in Maine, and is currently working on a seven-unit condominium building on York Street in Portland.

Harris moved from New York City eight years ago after working for J.P Morgan as an investment banker. He started North Atlantic Properties in 2003, and owns several properties in Portland: the Flyte New Media and Hartford Insurance building on Commercial Street, the Rivalries and Zapoteca building on Fore Street and an industrial building in East Bayside.

The pair has brought on Phil Kaplan, who lives across the street from the Falmouth school buildings, as their lead architect.

Civil engineer Tom Greer, whose company, Pinkham & Greer, has done work for the town in the past; architects Soren DeNiord and Tom Lee of dL Studio, and green building consultant Gunnar Hubbard of Fore Solutions make up the rest of the project team.

The proposal would be entirely funded by private capital. It does not make use of the town’s offer to consider tax increment financing.

“These people on the council who prefer OceanView, it’s because it’s private money they’d be using,” Harris said. “We’ve proposed the same sort of thing.”

Culley said their proposal would provide a place for everyone in Falmouth to enjoy.

“We have a lot of respect for OceanView, but we feel strongly this is a better deal for Falmouth,” he said.

OceanView project manager Chris Wasileski said his company is submitting several different proposals, but he would not reveal any details “out of respect for the (town’s) process.”

Culley and Harris said they are confident the seven single-family homes they propose, at around the median Falmouth home price of approximately $400,000, and the 12 townhouses, which would be more affordable, will sell. They would retain ownership of the 10 rental apartments.

There would also be an additional commercial building near the market, which could house a variety of tenants.

Culley and Harris declined to say how much they or the Friends School have offered the town for the properties, because the council has made it clear it wants that information kept secret for now.

“We want to have a dialog with the public,” Culley said. “We think there should be a conversation about this.”

Because the bids are sealed until the council makes a decision, no other bidders could be reached for comment. Town Manager Nathan Poore refused to say how many bids the town received for the properties, citing his need to “protect the town’s bargaining power.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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The Falmouth Town Green site plan submitted Tuesday by Redfern North Atlantic. Two Falmouth residents, and a team of local architects and engineers, submitted the plan to convert the former Falmouth school properties at Lunt and Middle roads to a mixed-use development.

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