BRUNSWICK — The Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority is trying to decide what to do with 144-acres on the west side of the former Navy base and is seeking public input.

The parcel, which includes a cranberry wetland, a radar tower, abandoned military bunkers, airport access roads, a quarry and land formerly part of the town commons, was originally part of a roughly 275-acre area given over to Bowdoin College for educational purposes in 2006.

The 144-acres to be redeveloped. Screenshot/Sebago Technics

But according to Bowdoin spokesperson  Doug Cook, the original terms of the agreement required the college to make “substantial investments in new facilities on the former naval air station land by the year 2020.” Instead, the college made an outright purchase of about 13 acres last year. The Navy conveyed the remaining land back to the redevelopment authority, which is overseeing revitalization efforts at the former base, now renamed Brunswick Landing. 

The remaining 144 acres, situated between Harpswell Road and the Brunswick Executive Airport, are now available again, and a “rigorous public engagement process” is underway, according to a statement from the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. 

Ordinarily, much of this work would be conducted “in a large room with all kinds of maps,” said Redevelopment Authority Director Steve Levesque, but with the COVID-19 pandemic they had to get creative, and instead, a survey is available online for people interested in sharing ideas.

So far, about 106 acres have been given back, with another 25 or so, primarily the quarry, that still need to clear the environmental hoops, Levesque said. The planning and zoning process will take time, but he hopes to have a plan in place by the end of the year and start marking the property by next summer. 


There are many potential uses for the space, he said, and he imagines there will be mixed uses, perhaps some residential and recreational, open space development, both of which have been expressed as needs within the community. 

The Brunswick Topsham Land Trust hopes some of the land can be secured for recreation and conservation, as the land contains “valuable wetland, stream and vernal pool habitat” and has the opportunity to broaden the current recreational opportunities in town, the organization wrote in a blog post. 

A section of that land was once part of the Brunswick Town Commons, now a 71-acre woodland park and trail system. The commons was a 1,000-acre gift to the town from the Pejepscot Company in 1719 designed to “ly in general comonage” and is one of the oldest conserved open space in Maine. Now, 300 years later, most of the 1,000 acres have been lost over time in deals that helped bring Bowdoin College and the United States Navy to Brunswick. Now there is a chance for the same two organizations to essentially give some of that land back. 

According to the land trust, there are community partners who would support the town in managing the land to assure public recreational access at minimal expense to taxpayers. 

Open space has, in some cases, been somewhat controversial as it takes land off the tax roles, but land trust officials contend that not only does development not always mean revenue for a municipality, but also that increased recreational resources like trails support the local economy. 

In 2012, a Trust for Public Land report titled “Return on the Investment In Land for Maine’s Future” found that for every $1 invested in public land, $11 in “natural goods and services” were returned to Maine’s economy. 


According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation makes up 4.8% of Maine’s economy (more than double the national average).

The industry contributes $3 million to Maine’s economy and accounts for 6.4% of employment, supporting more than 40,000 Maine jobs. 

At the very least, Lee Cataldo, director of programs for the land trust, said the organization hopes to ensure the redevelopment will continue the landing’s perimeter trail system and offer connection to the town commons. 

But that’s not to say that is all the land should be used for. 

“We really try hard to recognize the many needs that our community has,” she said, adding “we very clearly have a need for low-income housing in our community.”

Low income housing is “absolutely” on the table, Levesque said, calling it a “critical need in Brunswick and the midcoast.” 


Brunswick Landing has no shortage of housing in the works— earlier this month, the Brunswick Planning Board approved plans for a 108-unit apartment complex on Captain’s Way, a cul-de-sac off Admiral Fitch Drive. The project, which features nine three-story apartment buildings, could even begin construction sometime this month.

Loni Graiver of Graiver Homes told The Times Record that rents for the one- and two-bedroom units are expected to run between $1,300 and $1,550.

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research, fair market rent in Brunswick is about $815 per month for a one-bedroom home and $1,051 for a two-bedroom home.  

Data from the Maine State Housing Authority shows 50.3% of the 7,710 renter households in the Brunswick market can’t afford an average two-bedroom rental, which would require an income of $40,423. 

John Hodge, director of the Brunswick Housing Authority, said previously that most two-bedroom apartments go for anywhere from $1,200 to $1,600 per month.

Programs like low income housing tax credit program, which allows developers to build at a lower cost if a certain number of units are reserved for affordable housing are helpful, but Hodge said those programs add maybe 250 units across the state every year– not even close to the 10,000 he estimated are needed.

To weigh in on how the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority should use the additional land, fill out the survey before Aug. 21. 

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