Jason Snyder has traveled the world as a consultant and investor for well-known international firms, but when it comes his work over the past five years, he’s all about Westbrook.

Snyder, 37, who last week announced a proposal for the state’s largest retail, recreation and entertainment development, touts himself as a Westbrook native through and through. Basing his operations from his Stroudwater Street home, Snyder has brought in some big names from away to help realize his vision for developing his Westbrook property.

The scope of Snyder’s proposal, along with having high-profile partner Arthur Emil, who owned Windows on the World at the top of the World Trade Center, and nationally recognized architect Jane Thompson behind it, quickly drew questions about details of the plan and its feasibility. While Snyder has talked publicly about those working with him and his vision for Stroudwater, he has said little about his background.

Those who know him personally say Snyder takes after his father, another real estate developer who was willing to take chances on properties that had yet to prove their value. Despite the questions surrounding the project, friends say Snyder has the confidence, optimism and experience to see such a large project through to completion. Yet, past problems – including a lawsuit filed against him by his mother – suggest some difficult history. But now, as he leads the project, both he and his mother have reconciled, and friends and family believe that, much like his father, he is driven to succeed.

‘His father’s thinking’

Snyder was born in Westbrook but spent the majority of his youth in Orlando, Fla. His family moved there after his father, the late Arthur T. Snyder, developed heart problems.

“The Maine winters were tough on him,” said Snyder, who counted his father as his best friend.

According to Matt Whitacer, Snyder’s classmate in both high school and college at the University of Florida, father and son played golf together almost every day through high school.

“He’s a chip off the old block,” Snyder’s mother, Carolyn, said about his likeness to his father.

Arthur Snyder was a real estate developer who bought run-down buildings in the Old Port during the 1970s and turned them into condos, offices and retail shops. Around the same time, he envisioned room for development down the road – and he saw it in Stroudwater.

From 1959, when Snyder purchased the property where the development is proposed, through the 1970s, Arthur Snyder purchased land on either side of the Westbrook-Portland line. According to Snyder, his father believed they “would be the most important development parcels in the state.”

After graduating from college, Snyder held several jobs. He traveled the world, working for the United Nations Security Council, as an intern for U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, and in a private banking firm, spending time throughout Europe, Hong Kong and China. But ultimately, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father- a man Snyder said “had a mind that looked ahead.”

According to Carolyn Snyder, her son “has his father’s thinking.”

Now, as the manager of his father’s properties, Snyder is trying to complete the project his father set out to do.

The development proposed, which includes high-end retail stores, restaurants and cafes, a hotel, a cinema, skating rinks and a farmer’s market, is still a 10-year build-out away. But, for Snyder and his family, the road to this point has been a long one, as well.

Along with his brother Simon, Snyder was named in his father’s will as a co-trustee of his properties. According to a civil suit filed against Snyder by his mother in 2002, there was an oral agreement among the family that the brothers would hold and manage the properties, but share any money made from their sale.

After a 47-acre plot was sold to the city of Portland in 1999 for $1.3 million and another 27 acres taken by the Maine Turnpike Authority in 2001 for $560,000, Carolyn Snyder claimed in her suit that Jason wouldn’t hand over her and her daughter’s share of the profits. The civil suit remained in Superior Court for over two years before the family was able to come to an agreement about a settlement.

“It was much ado about nothing,” Snyder said this week about the law suit, adding that there are no rifts among his family members anymore.

Snyder, who isn’t married, shares his home at 528 Stoudwater St. with his mother.

“Everybody lives, happily ever after,” he said.

Though Carolyn Snyder said she doesn’t mind the one week every month she gets to herself when her son travels to New York, she said, “he’s very good company” when he’s around.

“He’s a wonderful human being and a wonderful son,” she said.

Carolyn Snyder’s friend, Antonia Verrill, said she thinks of Snyder as her own son, too. He said he always comes to see her when he’s in town and would do anything she asked him to do.

“You can’t ask for a nicer fellow, really,” Verrill said.

Her latest request, however, is a bit bigger than the typical errand.

“I asked him for a Whole Foods store,” she said.

Speaking with confidence

Friends of Snyder’s describe him as a knowledgeable and kind person. They says he’s driven, determined and has a positive attitude. Despite the fact that those who know Snyder describe him as personable and social, Snyder said he is protective of his personal life, as is the rest of his family.

Snyder for the most part grew up like an only child. His siblings, Simon and Maria, who live in New York and once owned a fashion company together, are much older than he.

During college, Whitacer said, he and Snyder got along because they were both good students who “didn’t take advantage of the party life like we should have.”

Though Whitacer still lives in Florida and Snyder has been all over the world, Whitacer said they still keep in close touch. The two take trips together about twice a year and bond over a mutual love of sushi and quotes from the “Austin Powers” movies.

Whitacer said even when Snyder is completely overwhelmed with work, he’ll take the time to “give me a shout-out” with a quick phone call.

Still, Whitacer said, Snyder, whom he calls his best friend, never tells him about his projects in the works, which is why Westbrook residents shouldn’t be surprised that they didn’t see Snyder’s development coming.

But after years of bouncing from country to country and state to state, Snyder does seem to be starting to settle back in Westbrook. Now having traded his golf clubs for a tennis racket, Snyder said he practically lived at the Westbrook High School courts this past summer.

In his travels to New York, Snyder frequently meets with his partner, Arthur Emil. In addition to the development proposed last week, Snyder said he and Emil have plans to develop another one of his properties in the area, but wouldn’t talk more about the project.

Though Snyder likes to keep his plans under wraps, he isn’t afraid to speak with confidence about them.

“It’s just a matter of going through that process,” he said about making his proposal happen. “I don’t think there are any huge hurdles.”

Jason Snyder talks about the future development of Stroudwater Place last week during a press conference at the Westbrook City Hall. The development would be located off the Westbrook Arterial near Exit 47 of the Maine Turnpike.


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