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December 4, 2013

Large parcel in Westbrook may be sold

J.B. Brown & Sons is interested in about 60 acres in Westbrook, the site of a failed 2008 plan for an upscale shopping center.

By Leslie Bridgers
Staff Writer

A major area landowner is looking to buy more than 60 acres of land in Westbrook where a massive, high-end shopping center was once proposed.

But the prospective buyer, J.B. Brown & Sons, first wants a change in the zoning.

A contract zone developed for the site of the Stroudwater Place project generated months of contentious debate between supporters and skeptics of the proposed retail and recreational complex.

Complete with an ice skating rink and a farmers market, the project was first proposed in 2008 by Jason Snyder, owner of the land between Stroudwater Street and Westbrook Arterial, and his partner, the late New York City businessman Arthur Emil.

The project never got off the ground and the land was sold back to its mortgage lender, Kimco Capital Corp., at a foreclosure auction in May.

A memorandum from the city’s planning department said the development “has been determined by the market to be a commercially unattainable vision.”

On Tuesday, the Planning Board will consider a proposal from J.B. Brown & Sons and Kimco Capital to rezone the property for commercial uses on the 48 acres closer to Westbrook Arterial and for residential uses on the 15 acres near Stroudwater Street.

“In order to make the Kimco property marketable to potential users, the Contract Zone needs to be repealed and replaced with existing Westbrook zoning districts,” said the planning department’s memo to the board.

Vincent Veroneau, president and chief executive officer of J.B. Brown & Sons, said the Portland-based company has an agreement with Kimco Capital to buy the land, but that the deal is dependent on the zone change.

He said J.B. Brown doesn’t “have any immediate plans for development of the property,” but envisions retail, multifamily residential and hospitality as potential uses.“It’s a piece of property that offers some good long-term development possibilities,” Veroneau said Monday.

J.B. Brown has developed much of Congress Street, Commercial Street, the waterfront and the West End in Portland. The company owns about 30 properties in and around the city.

Assistant City Administrator William Baker said J.B. Brown’s involvement “is good news for the city of Westbrook.”

Mark Malone, broker for Kimco Capital, has called the Westbrook property “the prime large piece left in the area.” Malone said Monday the zone change request is the first of several steps needed to make the property marketable, including getting state approval for access to Westbrook Arterial.

The land was among several parcels near the Portland-Westbrook line purchased decades ago by Snyder’s father, the late Arthur Snyder, an early developer of Portland’s Old Port.

Jason Snyder’s company, 500 Westbrook LLC, owed Kimco Capital $1.9 million in mortgage and interest payments when the property was foreclosed on.

The mortgage lender bought it back at the foreclosure auction for $1.2 million, the same as the principal amount of the mortgage, outbidding Snyder, who made a final offer of $610,000.

Malone said at the time that the property was probably worth about $3 million and that Kimco Capital planned to put it right back on the market.

The Planning Board meeting Tuesday starts at 7 p.m. in Room 114 at Westbrook High School. A public hearing is scheduled for Jan. 7, when the board will make a recommendation to the City Council.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: lbridgers@pressherald.comTwitter: @lesliebridgers
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