The primary focus at the MEREDA annual forecasting conference was definitely southern Maine, but developments in other regions were noted. Development throughout the state seems to be buoyed by low interest rates and low unemployment rates.

In the Augusta area, Keith Luke of the city’s development staff, noted that a $6 million restoration of Colonial Theater on Water Street is underway. Additionally, there’s been some renewed interest in redeveloping the former Statler mill site into Kennebec Locke, the capitol’s version of Portland’s Thompson Point, Luke said.

Interest in multi-family sales had a significant impact in the Lewiston-Auburn real estate market. According to Malone broker Kevin Fletcher, sales of buildings with five or more units increased 53 percent over the number of similar sales in 2015. The per unit average price for buildings in that range was $20,680 in 2015 and $23,550 in 2016, an increase of nearly 14 percent in one year. Fletcher said he expects to see increased demand and sales in L-A’s multi-family sector and that values are likely to continue rising.

In the Brunswick/Topsham area, it appears the retail war between Cook’s Corner and the Topsham Fair Mall areas has subsided. Both shopping centers report overall occupancy rates well above 80 percent, according to Erik Urbanek of SVN, a commercial real estate agency. The redevelopment of Brunswick Landing continues to gain steam as more than 100 companies have relocated to the former naval base creating 1,200-plus jobs.

Craft beer and restaurants are increasing their presence in the Bangor area, where the downtown is “robust,” said Tanya Emery, economic development director for the city. Downtown rehabs are fueled by demand from the residential market and restaurants, she said. That should help stabilize retail in the wake of announcements by Kmart and Macy’s that they are closing their Bangor locations. She expects to see development in existing buildings and in-town housing grow after years of suburban development.

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