Payson mansion in Cumberland to be sold at auction

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CUMBERLAND — After more than a year on the market, a circa 1940 mansion on the former Payson property will be sold at auction Sept. 20.

The nine-bedroom, nearly 8,000-square-foot building sits on a 104-acre estate formerly owned by Phillips and Marion Payson. Bateman Partners and Peter Anastos in December 2014 purchased the 179 Foreside Road property from Spears Hill LLC, which represents the family of the late Marion Payson.

The family listed the property for $6.5 million. The mansion is one of three homes on the land; Bateman is building another seven, as allowed by a 1997 conservation easement.

Soon after purchasing the property, Bateman sold a parcel – now known as Broad Cove Reserve – to the town for $3 million, following a town referendum. The town’s purchase was intended to provide beach access and other use by the public, and includes 2,200 feet of shoreline and a 200-foot pier. 

The Payson heirs are suing the town and Chebeague & Cumberland Land Trust over the town’s proposed use of the property. The land trust has been the property’s steward since the 1997 easement was established.

Of the 10 stipulated lots on the property, Bateman is developing nine; a house to the west of the mansion is still owned by a Payson family member. That home is part of the Spears Hill homeowners’ association that Bateman created, according to Nathan Bateman, the firm’s vice president.

The company has rebuilt Beach Road, the public road into the property, to town standards and re-routed it away from the mansion as it approaches the shore, Bateman said.

Spears Road, which branches off Beach Road, is a private way leading to the seven new house lots Bateman created. Bateman improved Spears Road and brought in water, sewer, electricity and natural gas. A house has been completed on Lot 1, while homes are under construction on Lots 2 and 6, and one is about to begin on Lot 3. Lots 1, 2, 3, 6 and 7 have been sold, while 4 and 5 remain vacant.

The mansion, now with an address of 57 Beach Road, sits on the 9.3-acre Lot 9 and comes with a barn. A cottage, on adjoining Lot 8, has been sold.

The property also has access to about 2,000 feet of ocean frontage, as well as about 60 acres of preserved land that serves as a common area for the homeowners’ association and about 5 miles of trails, according to the auction listing.

Going to auction

While the lots have sold quickly, the mansion has not. Realtor David Banks first listed the house for $2.5 million, then reduced it to $2.27 million.

“I trust David Banks implicitly with any development we do,” Bateman said. “… We went out to the marketplace, we’ve had people that have considered (buying the mansion). We’ve been very, very close to coming to a transactional deal.”

But with no buyers, at the beginning of this summer the two parties opted to work with national real estate auction house Tranzon to sell the property. The company is co-listing the mansion with Banks.

Bateman said reluctance from would-be buyers who may not want to share the beach “is the absolute risk we took” when purchasing the property.

“We went into that eyes wide open; it’s why we shifted the road (away from the mansion),” and why it is important that parking be relocated in a to-be-developed lot near Foreside Road, as opposed to where it is now along Beach Road, he said.

“This house represents the entire risk of the project,” Bateman added. “… This is that unique property. And it has been a barrier to local sales; people have that exact feeling, there are other properties they could buy that have private beaches and private shores.”

But, Bateman noted, if “I bring someone in from Massachusetts or Connecticut, and they look at the property, and that’s fine. They embrace it; they think it’s wonderful having people being on the shore, the beach and the water.”

The auction will be held at the property at 2 p.m. Sept. 20. In the meantime, inspections will be held Sept. 7 and 14 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., and Sept. 11 from noon-2 p.m.

“We’re really excited to see this property pass to the next set of hands that can envision … (its) potential,” Bateman said.

Oral arguments in the Payson heirs’ lawsuit against the town and land trust, meanwhile, are scheduled this fall. There may not have a ruling before the end of the year, Town Manager Bill Shane said last week.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The mansion of the former Payson family estate in Cumberland, completed in 1940 on Casco Bay, goes to auction Sept. 20.

This visual shows Bateman Partners’ lot development layout on the former Payson property. The Payson mansion stands on 9.3-acre Lot 9. The town of Cumberland’s portion comprises 11 acres along Casco Bay including 2,200 feet of shorefront, as well as 9 acres along Foreside Road and a road – located right of center – that connects the two parcels.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.