Hundreds of units of former military housing in Brunswick and Topsham have been sold to an investment group in a real estate deal worth tens of millions of dollars.

Schott Management, owned by Auburn developer George Schott, was sold June 30 to a group of investors from Maine and Texas. Schott’s company has owned and leased housing at the former Brunswick Naval Air Station since 2010, following the decommissioning of the base and the departure of roughly 4,800 Navy-related jobs.

Chris Rhoades, a Falmouth real estate developer and partner in the deal, said in an interview Wednesday that the new owners plan to renovate the homes and apartments, and could build up to 200 units of additional housing.

“The Brunswick and Topsham markets are very attractive,” he said. “There is a real need for housing there, (and) there is an opportunity to take over an existing project that was fully leased.”

The new owners were drawn to the property because of the area’s proximity to other parts of Maine – Brunswick-Topsham is only 45 minutes from half of the state’s populace, including the population centers of Portland, Lewiston-Auburn and Augusta. Another appealing factor was the successful redevelopment of the former base led by the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, Rhoades said. The authority has created more than 1,200 jobs and attracted 100 businesses to the base since its closure.

The hundreds of units bought by investors are grouped into neighborhoods of single-family homes, duplexes and quadra-plexes, including Woodland Village in Brunswick. Staff photo by Shawn Patrick Ouellette

The sale involved 407 housing units, 334 at the former base in Brunswick and 73 in Topsham.

“It may be one of the largest real estate transactions in the last two or three years,” said Kevin Fletcher, president of the Maine Commercial Association of Realtors. “It is certainly up there.”

AT LEAST $33 MILLION BORROWED

Rhoades and business partner Andrew Preston partnered on the sale with The Presidium Group, a Dallas-based real estate company that owns thousands of rental units in Texas and Oklahoma. The Brunswick properties were bought under the company Brunswick Landing Venture LLC, and the Topsham units were purchased by a company called Patriot Brunswick Holdings LLC.

Rhoades declined to reveal the deal’s price, but a mortgage agreement filed with Cumberland County shows Brunswick Landing Venture borrowed $32.9 million for the sale. The overall price is likely to be considerably more.

The new owners intend to keep the housing as rental units, but have not determined if rates will change, Rhoades said. The properties are grouped into five neighborhoods of single-family homes, duplexes and quadraplexes with rental prices that range from $985 per month for a unit in Topsham’s Patriot Commons to $1,850 per month in Woodland Village in Brunswick, including utilities. The new owners are assessing the units to determine price factors.

“We haven’t made a decision on what we want to do,” Rhoades said.

RENOVATIONS AND NEW HOUSING

Brit Vitalius, owner of the Vitalius Real Estate Group and president of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, said the new owners may have been attracted to the properties because they saw an opportunity to improve the units and to build new housing to increase their rate of return. Although comparatively few rental units are being created in Portland, multifamily buildings are being built all over the region, he said.

“When you take in aggregate all the area, there is a lot of interest here,” he said.

Some of the former base housing will get interior renovations and will have water-saving toilets and showers installed, Rhoades said. The new owners plan to replace street signs, make landscape improvements and plan community events for residents. They also are talking to town officials in Brunswick and Topsham about adding 100 new housing units in each community, Rhoades said. Brunswick officials didn’t return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Under terms of the deal, Schott Management will be disbanded and responsibility for the homes and apartments will be shifted to Foreside Real Estate Management in Falmouth.

The new owners did not intend to announce the sale publicly, Rhoades said.

“We didn’t want to advertise it, we wanted to stay under the radar,” he said.

Schott, who has developed many commercial properties, including hotels and shopping malls, purchased more than 700 units of military housing from the Navy in 2010 as part of the closure of the 3,200-acre naval base.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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