Tao Yuan's Brunswick aquaponic greenhouse, bakery back on track

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BRUNSWICK — Construction of a long-awaited aquaponic greenhouse and bakery at Tao Yuan Restaurant on Pleasant Street is expected to begin by the end of the year.

The project – the next venture for chef Cara Stadler, who also owns Portland’s Bao Bao Dumpling House – will add an aesthetically bold presence to the Pleasant Street corridor, and change the way the restaurant sources and serves its seafood and produce.

The building will technically have an address of 5 Abbey Road, a side street behind the restaurant off Pleasant Street.

Within the two-story greenhouse – topped with a sleek, contemporary glass dome – the restaurant will raise fish and produce and operated an 18-seat retail cafe and bakery.

The project was approved by the Planning Board last summer, but construction was delayed after engineers modified the plans.

Those changes prompted several minor architectural modifications, requiring the restaurant to go before the Village Review Board once again Tuesday night; the panel issued another approval, agreeing with the engineer that the changes were minor and preserved “the spirit” of the original design.

Instead, most of the board members Tuesday expressed their anticipation.

“Every time I walk past there I say, there’s no greenhouse. Where are the fish?” Annee Tara said, referring to the recirculating aquaculture system that will share housing with the vegetable garden.

“(This) is a very exciting project and I, too, would like to see it go up,” Chairman Gary Massanek said after the board approved the modifications.

Kate Holcomb, the restaurant’s farm coordinator and future greenhouse manager, said Wednesday that the primary reason for the delay has been finalizing the engineering plans for what will be a complex building.

As an aquaponic system, she said, the greenhouse will function like a miniature ecosystem.

The restaurant will raise fish in a recirculating aquaculture system, which will create waste that naturally occurring bacteria will break down into nutrition to feed the adjacent produce garden.

“It’s a cycle,” Holcomb said Wednesday morning. “It can be very low water usage because you’re constantly recycling the water.”

As for the bakery, she declined to offer details on what will be offered. There will be seating, she said, although most options will likely cater to takeout customers.

With the engineering plans nearly squared away, Holcomb said all that’s left to do is for the restaurant to obtain a local building permit.

“Our goal is to start (construction) very soon,” she said, probably by the end of the year.

Callie Ferguson can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net. Follow Callie on Twitter: @calliecferguson.

A July 2016 rendering of the aquaponic greenhouse on Abbey Road, behind Tao Yuan restaurant on Pleasant Street in Brunswick. Some minor exterior modifications have been made, and the Village Review Board has re-issued a certification of appropriateness.

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Reporting on municipal, school, and community news in Brunswick and Harpswell. Bowdoin graduate, Wild Oats sandwich-eater. Callie can be reached at 207-781-3661 ext. 100, or cferguson@theforecaster.net.