A sign at the entrance of the Cook’s Corner commercial area in Brunswick. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

An ongoing survey by the town of Brunswick aimed at guiding revitalization efforts for Cook’s Corner shows residents want better pedestrian and bicycle access, more green space and more sit-down restaurants in the area.

Cook’s Corner is a predominately commercial part of Brunswick characterized by strip malls and chain stores. The revitalization effort was launched last fall, and the survey was put out on Sept. 7.

The area neighbors Brunswick Landing, the site of the former Naval Air Station that closed in 2011. The landing has seen an influx of new housing developments and economic activity.

“We have all this activity going in the redevelopment of the base at the landing and you think you would get spin off investment to our commercial service center that directly abuts that property, and we just haven’t seen it,” said Brunswick Economic Development Director Sally Costello.

According to Costello, major issues facing Cook’s Corner include overlooked infrastructure needs, underutilized investment opportunities and a lack of pedestrian access.

Sears, Olympia Sports and Radio Shack are a few examples of businesses that have left the area in the past decade, according to a 2020 report by The Times Record. New businesses to Cook’s Corner include Brunswick’s second Hannaford Supermarket that opened in June and a new Martin’s Point Healthcare facility that opened in October.

An ongoing survey by the town looking for input on the effort has garnered just over 800 responses so far. In the survey, 33% of respondents indicated that walking paths would draw them to Cook’s Corner, and 30% said more green space would, the two highest-ranking answers for the question related to environment or style of amenity.

Additionally, 22% of respondents said they would go to Cook’s Corner more frequently if there were additional sit-down restaurants, the highest-ranking answer for the question related to stores.

Various Brunswick community members spoke at a public meeting on Monday, voicing a range of opinions for what direction the revitalization plan should go in.

“I think that we have a lot of new Mainers that are living in the area, and I think it’s such a shame that so many of them jump on the bus to go to Portland to get the food and clothing and services that they want because we don’t have the diversity of businesses here that they’re looking for,” said Cory King, the executive director of the Southern Midcoast Maine Chamber.

Local resident Darren Wallach said that he was pleased to see pedestrian access ranking high on the survey, stating that finding safe walking access from newer, nearby housing areas to Cook’s Corner is difficult for residents.

“There’s thousands of people that are going to be living in Cook’s Corner but there is no good way to walk there,” Wallach said. “So that’s really got to be fixed as soon as possible.”

Tom Barter, a Brunswick resident who works for Brunswick Downtown Association, said that he sees a great opportunity down the road to link the downtown and Cook’s Corner through pedestrian and bicycle access.

“This sounds really exciting to me, and I echo much of what I’ve heard,” said Brunswick resident Diana Garcia. “My concern always, however, comes back to any time you’re talking about this level of an investment, how it’s going to impact the property taxes.”

The revitalization effort is guided by a committee of 24 private and public stakeholders, including local businesses, as well as two consultant firms hired by the town; Camion Associates and Gorrill Palmer. In May 2021, the town council approved $200,000 for the first phase of the plan.

Another sign pointing towards the entrance of the Cook’s Corner commercial area in Brunswick. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

According to Camion Associates Project Manager Alex Tanmer, the revitalization plan will also take into account town, regional and national data.

Brunswick’s population, according to the presentation, has grown 7.5% between 2010 and 2020, outpacing the Portland region which saw a 6.6% increase in population, and the state of Maine, which grew by 2.5% over the same period.

The town’s largest industry by employer is healthcare at 28%, followed by education services at 11%, retail trade at 11%, government at 11% and manufacturing at 9%. About 80% of jobs in Brunswick, however, are filled by people commuting in.

Regional real estate trends show that grocery retail, medical office, residential, and warehouse & distribution are on the rise, while restaurants, brick & mortar retail and general office space are declining.

Looking ahead, a final plan with concrete recommendations will likely be presented to the council in the first quarter of 2022.

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