Crystal Spring Farm in Brunswick is the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust’s most popular property, according to a 2019 survey. The land trust is working with developer Tom Wright to plan an environmental resource center at Brunswick Landing. Courtesy Ben Williamson

BRUNSWICK —A former Navy night club, “Night Flight,” now a gutted building at Brunswick Landing bordering a swath of conservation lands, may soon be revived as an environmental resource center. 

The center “can become one of the greatest treasures of the Midcoast Maine area,” developer Thomas Wright wrote to the town council, and is another step toward meeting the goals for Brunswick Landing outlined in the reuse plan for the former base. He’s working with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust to plan the project.

The 16,000-square-foot building at 179 Neptune Dr. has two parking lots, making it an ideal entryway to the neighboring conservation lands, Wright said in an interview. 

“Surrounded by literally hundreds of acres that have been set aside for conservation and recreational uses, this building … is exceedingly well situated to provide a community hub for recreation and environmental engagement,” Nikkilee Cataldo, director of programs for the land trust, wrote in a letter to the council, adding that the building would serve as a base for conservation, recreation and environmental education community groups.

The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust would be a cornerstone tenant in the building, Cataldo said, but other organizations such as the Cathance River Education Alliance, Teens to Trails, Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine, the local New England Bike Association among others have expressed interest in using the building for either office and meeting space as a “gear hub” for programs like winter bike building, bike repair workshops or bike rentals. The space could also be used as a tool library, she said, housing skis, bikes, chainsaws and other trail building tools for local land trusts and organizations to use. 

“We also hope and expect to see the facility become central to recreation in the future,” she said.

For skiers, bikers and hikers, there will be trailhead parking, bathrooms, tire pumping locations and trail maps.

“The facility will act as a key location for community engagement with conservation and environmental education,” she said. 

Wright, manager of the Brunswick Landing Community Collective Development Group, has focused on bringing community and socially conscientious development to Brunswick Landing for around five years and has been behind projects including the Brunswick Landing YMCA, Seeds of Independence, Wild Oats Bakery and Flight Deck Brewing. With this location’s potential, he said, it was a natural fit and a “rare opportunity” to help create environmental education opportunities.

The building is zoned in the “Growth Outdoor” zone, intended to “provide suitable areas for a variety of commercial and public active and passive outdoor recreational opportunities for the community,” according to the Master Reuse Plan. “Permitted uses” include daycare, municipal facility, parks, schools, aquaculture, urban agriculture, farm, equestrian, marine, campground, home occupation and golf course among others, with “office” and “renewable energy facility” reserved as accessory and conditional uses.

However, “none of the existing permitted uses effectively encompass what is envisioned by the (land trust) and the building’s owner, though we believe the envisioned use aligns well with the redevelopment vision and intent,” Cataldo wrote. Wright and the land trust have asked the town council to include “environmental resource center” among the permitted uses. This would also allow the Brunswick Topsham Land Trust to use its intended office space. As it currently stands, only the owner of the building can do so. 

If granted, Wright estimates he could get the first businesses in by the spring. 

“I have all my building permits in place, so it could go pretty quickly if this gets approved,” he said. 

It will take a lot of work “and a lot of investment on my part,” he added, but “I personally think it’s going to be better for the community and better for the businesses that are here to have access to that property. … It could really be a huge asset to the Midcoast area.” 

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