Sonic boom: Brunswick Landing development explodes into next phase
Since Brunswick Landing opened on the former site of the Brunswick Naval Air Station in 2011, it’s been about the numbers — namely how to replace the jobs and economic foundation lost when the U.S. Navy left.
As the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the 3,400-acre campus, gears up for a new phase of development, those numbers tell a remarkable story:
2,000 jobs created (the initial projection was 800-900 by 2018).
133 businesses, many from out of state, or out of the country.
More than $110 million annual payroll.
790,289 square feet owned by MRRA.
876,410 square feet owned by developers and businesses (including 191,745 still owned by the U.S. Navy).
20 individual property owners, including MRRA and the Navy.
More than 500 units of housing developed or planned.
$400 million in private investment.
And, in the next 18 months, another number: 250,000 square feet of new development either recently completed, underway or planned.
“We’re in the middle of a fairly significant building boom,” says Steve Levesque, executive director of MRRA.
Businesses see opportunities
Levesque says Brunswick Landing should exceed the Navy’s peak payroll of $140 million within two years.
“[Brunswick Landing] has clearly taken hold,” he says. “We’re generating a lot of business, we’re exceeding job projections, we’re well over 130 companies, and a lot of them are from outside Maine, as well as from outside the country. It’s really exciting.”
The MRRA’s focus has always been on aviation. “We have an airport, after all,” Levesque says.
Aviation companies make up 232,744 square feet of occupied space at Brunswick Landing. Other industries that are complementary or support aviation also play a big role — such as composites manufacturers and education programs at Southern Maine Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta, which has a pilot training program there.
But other businesses and developments are sprouting up too.
“We focus on our target sectors and the other uses are backfilling,” he says. “Businesses see a market developing.”
Major employers Wayfair and Molnlycke both plan significant building expansions and new businesses are moving in. Wild Oats Bakery and Café, Martin’s Point Health Care and C.G. Edwards Marine will each add 20,000 to 50,000 square feet.
The next phase of development goes beyond finding businesses to buy or lease Navy property — it will change the landscape at Brunswick Landing, with new modern buildings joining what is largely a spread of repurposed Navy construction and large empty spaces.
Martin’s Point Health Care: The former SeaBee compound, which until recently was home to Blue Dog Daycare and several small empty industrial buildings, will be the site of a 55,000-square-foot Martin’s Point medical office building, due to break ground soon.
Molnlycke: The Swedish medical supply company, which operates out of an 80,000-square-foot building constructed in 2013, plans to add 50,000 square feet, Levesque said. The property is owned by developer Tom Wright.
Wayfair: A planned addition could double the 50,000 square feet the online shopping call center has in the former Navy Exchange, owned and redeveloped by Priority Real Estate Group.
Priority Real Estate Group: The base’s fourth-largest property owner is adding a bank and coffee shop along Bath Road, adjacent to the 11,700-square-foot building that opened last year and houses the Center for Diagnostic Imaging. The new build’s other neighbor will be the Irving gas station/Rusty Lantern convenience store Priority opened in 2017.
Priority Group is also building 144 units of rental housing along Landing Drive, an access road that opened in September.
The 144 units add to more than 400 units of former Navy housing being redeveloped rented out and, in some cases, sold by Brunswick Landing Ventures.
When Priority CEO Jim Howard was named MRRA Developer of the Year last year, Levesque said his projects were responsible for creating more than 800 jobs and $40,000 a year in property taxes for Brunswick. At the time, Howard told Mainebiz that he plans $20 million in new construction at Brunswick Landing in the next two to three years.
Wild Oats Bakery and Café: The business once had a restaurant in another building onsite, which closed in 2015. It’s now moving from the Tontine Mall on Maine Avenue into a planned 20,000-square-foot building on land developer Tom Wright owns between Molnlycke and Flight Deck brewery. That move will be complete next year.
STARC Systems: The company, which makes construction partitions, got its start in Tech Place, and has now outgrown the 25,000 square feet of space in two buildings it’s been leasing for the past two years. It’s moved into redeveloped Hangar 6.
Bamforth Marine: The sales-and-service company leases a total 15,000 square feet in two buildings, but is working with the MRRA on possibly building a 20,000-square-foot building on the former soccer field, though there’s not yet a contract, Levesque says.
C.G. Edwards Co.: The Boston-based marine supply and industrial coating business plans to build up to 20,000 square feet on Katahdin Street.
Blue Dog Daycare: It moved into a newly constructed 6,000-square-foot building, at the corner of Allagash and Katahdin streets, on Sept. 30.
Maine Extraction Labs: A marijuana extraction and retailer and distributor, another graduate of Tech Place, plans to move into leased space in a 5,000-square-foot former Navy building at 119 Orion St.
West Maquoit Vinegar Works: The business, owned by Brunswick residents Brad Messier and Elizabeth Guilbault, will move into the under-renovation former Navy fuel farm pumphouse across Allagash Street from Flight Deck Brewery.
bluShift Aerospace: The bio-fueled rocket engine manufacturer, which also started in Tech Place, was most recently in the 2,000-square-foot building West Maquoit Vinegar Works is moving into. It recently moved into new quarters on Orion Avenue.
MRRA getting in on the act
MRRA just completed building a 15,000-square-foot hangar for general aviation. It will store aircraft owned by customers of FlightLevel Aviation, the Brunswick Executive Airport’s fixed-base operator, as well as other small planes. That will free up space in Hangar 6 for other companies.
There are also plans to add 20,000 square feet specifically for biotech to Tech Place, the campus business incubator, which houses 38 businesses, Levesque says.
“Tech Place is almost full,” he says. “There’s a strong need for more space.”
Brunswick landing may also soon be taking its aviation focus into a whole new orbit.
The Maine Space Grant Consortium is considering the campus as mission control for a program that would launch small satellites, known as cubesats, from Commerce Park at the former Loring Air Force Base in Presque Isle. The consortium is conducting a study, funding by the Maine Technology Institute and NASA, on the market feasibility of the program.
The campus will likely see more renewable energy in the near future, Levesque says, adding to the 4,500-panel 1.5 megawatt array installed last year by ReVision Energy and owned by Diversified Communications. Combined with the Village Green Ventures anaerobic digester biogas plant, about 70% of the Brunswick Landing’s electricity is generated onsite. The biogas plant is expanding, and once completed, will accommodate all the campus’ current energy needs, Levesque says.