FALMOUTH — Plans for a collaborative, public planning process to gather input on the proposed redevelopment and expansion of the Falmouth Shopping Center are back on track after town officials met with the project’s representative last week.
A charette has been tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 4. It will provide residents the opportunity to participate in the planning process for the design and make-up of the 28 acres abutting the shopping center, as well as the reuse of the vacant building in the existing plaza and will include their vision for the larger Route 1 area, Town Manager Nathan Poore said.
Poore and Long Range Planning Director Theo Holtwijk weren’t sure the property owner, JPA Corp. of Boston, was interested in going through with the process until they met with the owner’s representative, Andrew Gilmore, last week.
Shortly after their previous meeting last November, all communication from Gilmore ceased and phone calls from Holtwijk went unanswered.
In November, the three met with Mark Eyerman, of Planning Decisions, who presented a proposal for the charette process. At that meeting, it was decided that the event would require a facilitator.
Last week’s meeting, held Thursday, Jan. 29, was “very encouraging,” Poore said. “It seems the clients want to move very quickly.”
But Holtwijk said they are still waiting for the owners to commit to paying for the charette’s facilitator, who would work on behalf of the town.
“After this long being quiet, they came back out of the woodwork and want to move post-haste,” Holtwijk said.
There’s a lot of planning that must be done to have everything ready, as well as establishing what the town and the property owners need to know for the project to proceed, he said.
“What kind of questions do we want the charette to answer for us?” Holtwijk said. “What mix of uses, how tall should buildings be, how should it be oriented, how best to accomplish pedestrian connections, so we know before we go in that these are the things people find important.”
Gilmore said Tuesday that he is still trying to reach his clients to get their approval for hiring the town’s facilitator. If Falmouth had the zoning in place for the level of retail development proposed in the project, he said he and the property owners would be in front of the Planning Board and not facing a charette.
“Here it’s more of a partnership expressing needs and desires while taking into account economic and environmental limitations,” he said. “There’s no real cookie cutter process of charette and personally, I think that’s a benefit here.”
As recently as last August, Gilmore said he had a “nationally recognized” tenant without an existing presence in southern Maine that was interested in anchoring the development. Since then, the tenant has backed out and, at this time, “there are no negotiations or discussions with perspective tenants,” he said.