By next year, Gorham Village will have a new bowling alley, restaurant, wine bar, retail space and about 30 apartments – all in one building.
Approved Monday by the Gorham Planning Board, the five-story building will be taller and more dense than any in the town center. Developer Jon Smith, who runs Great Falls Construction with his wife, Cynthia, predicted the project on Railroad Avenue would be “a catalyst.”
“I think that residential opportunities directly in the village are not there, and they really need to be,” Jon Smith said. “This is the first larger-scale opportunity to bring people to the village, to be able to live there and hop out the front door and take in what Gorham Village has to offer.”
Other officials shared the Smiths’ hope.
“It will improve the appearance of the village,” said Tom Ellsworth, president of the Gorham Economic Development Corp. “It’s going to be completely transformed, which will spur other kinds of development in the village.”
The Town Council previously approved a contract zone to address the project’s height and density, which are unique in the village.
“The density was probably what the town is looking for in the village area,” Town Planner Tom Poirier said. “I think it will be a nice fit for that area. I’m looking forward to the use in the bowling alley to see how that helps the downtown area.”
Construction will begin in the spring and take about 18 months. To address traffic concerns from neighbors, the company will also make a number of improvements to nearby intersections and sidewalks.
The first floor will house the bowling alley and a restaurant, as well as 3,000 square feet of retail space. The builders could not yet identify the operators for those businesses, but said the bowling alley will add a much-needed opportunity for recreation. They are hitting on a local trend, as a number of bowling alleys have opened or expanded in Greater Portland in recent years.
“This goes across all ages,” Jon Smith said. “Kids can be in there. Grandparents can be in there.”
The second, third and fourth floors will include at least 30 market-rate apartments – a mix of studios and one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.
“I’m hoping that it does help with more activity in the village and more walking in the village,” Cynthia Smith said.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published a report that showed a need for 6,000 new housing units in the area encompassing York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties. About a third of those units should be rentals near Portland, according to the report.
Already, the Smiths are seeing a demand for these units. They haven’t started actively marketing them, but they have collected a list of more than 10 interested tenants who are looking to sell their homes and downsize to apartments. Closer to the opening, Jon Smith said he expects to also hear interest from younger renters without children.
“They want the village experience,” he said. “They want to be in town closer to things that are going on.”
The top floor will be a wine bar with an exterior patio.
The 3-acre lot at 17 Railroad Ave. sits behind the Hannaford supermarket. Ellsworth said he expected residents to patronize nearby businesses, like Sebago Brewing Co. and a gym called My-Fit-24.
“These are locally owned businesses that will benefit from this project,” he said.