In a multi-part series, exclusive to the Maine Real Estate Insider, we’ll provide an up-close look at the most notable commercial development projects of the past year that are helping to fuel Maine’s economy in terms of investment and job creation. MEREDA is proud to recognize responsible development based upon criteria including environmental sustainability, economic impact, energy efficiency, difficulty of the development, uniqueness, social impact and job creation.
Our 2019 Top 7 recipients include:
62 Spring Street, Auburn, Anew Development / Auburn Housing
Founders Place Campus, Bangor, Bangor Savings Bank / CJ Developers
Cape Arundel Cottage Preserve, Arundel, Arundel-Kennebunkport Cottage Preserve, LLC
WEX Global Corporate Headquarters, Portland, Jonathan S. Cohen – 0 Hancock Street, LLC
Hannaford Center, Hampden, Good Shepherd Food Bank
Southgate, Scarborough, Avesta Housing
Station Square, Gorham, Great Falls Construction
MEREDA’s Board intended to honor the award winners at the 35th Anniversary Gala. Originally scheduled for the end of March 2020, the Gala was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19. Though they may have their formal award delayed, these projects have only gained practical significance as they serve their communities–especially under additional strain and stress of these unprecedented times. We look forward to formally recognizing these recipients at a future MEREDA event.
Please join us this week in celebrating Station Square in Gorham.
MEREDA: Describe the building and project.
Great Falls Construction: Station Square is a great representation of Great Falls’ most recent commitment to excellence and meeting diverse community needs in construction and development to best support Maine’s economy. Station Square stands as a 70,000SF, five story, thirty-three residential, six commercial unit property located in the heart of Gorham’s thriving Village. Station Square is currently home for nearly fifty-five residents as well as the new hub for Village entertainment, dining, commerce and more. The building, now at full residential capacity, nearly tripled the rental offerings in the Village prior to this development. In addition, Station Square has employed over 100+ people throughout the construction and development process and will continue to employee 150+ people through the commercial offerings. Throughout the planning and development process, this project has contracted over 75 Maine companies. These companies worked hard together to produce this project and millions of dollars were circulated through these companies to the hard-working Maine people whose hands created this.
In addition to the economic impact, Station Square includes countless thoughtfully chosen environmentally sustainable upgrades. Throughout the entirety of the project significant choices for sustainable upgrades were selected and executed upon. Some notable examples include the building’s envelope at an R value of 42, which is double the amount required by code. In short, this selected upgrade drastically reduces the consumption of heat and a/c. Should the occupants turn on their heat or a/c they use a highly efficient ducted electric heat pump. Each of the 33-residential units are equipped with an efficient heat pump system to ensure sustainable consumption by all occupants. Station Square also has a storm water treatment system on site in the form of storm tree brand filters to clean water run off on site. In addition, our upgraded choice in flooring for the numerous outdoor patios and common roof deck is a recycled tire material that allows water to pass through and run off where required. By using recycled materials, we help eliminate waste and reuse existing materials that withstand the harsh Maine climate conditions. The durability of this upgrade will ensure that they last for years to come.
Finally, from a historical and cultural perspective the building intentionally preserves Gorham’s historic identity and modernly invites the community to enjoy working, living and playing in the center of Gorham. The name and design of the space is centered on Gorham’s history as a heavily traveled train village. The building is situated at 7 Railroad Avenue atop where the old train ran from 1851 until the tracks were ultimately abandoned in 1961.
MEREDA: What was the impetus for this project?
Great Falls Construction: The impetus behind Station Square was the passion to construct with a purpose. Station Square’s purpose is to gather, live, work and play in the middle of Gorham, Maine. Station Square allows for the entire community to convene and enjoy what Gorham has to offer. Promoting community, walkability, sub-urban living environments, age-friendly family fun options, and economic activity were all forces behind the execution of the project. The project is a new space that offers so much now and for the future but also represents the past by nodding to the history of Gorham as a train traveled village. The name and overall design of the project was executed by the design team to pay tribute to Gorham’s past while offering so much for the present and future. Finally, Jon and Cindy Smith, co-owners of Great Falls Construction, are just plain passionate about developing and constructing with a Purpose and this was the energy that moved the project so successfully forward.
MEREDA: That sounds like quite a process. How long were you in the planning stages before construction started?
Great Falls Construction: The planning phase of the project took a few years before we formally brought the project forward then a year or so from there to complete. It was close to a five-year project duration from conception to completion because we wanted to make sure we designed and executed the project so as to give the property the best chance for success.
MEREDA: Tell us about the most challenging aspect of getting this project completed.
Great Falls Construction: As we embarked on the conceptual phase of the project, we quickly realized the current zoning wouldn’t support the mixed-use nature of the project. A contract zone would be required. Striking the right balance between commercial and residential uses and the right balance between number of units and number of parking spaces proved to be a laborious task. As we moved into the construction phase, we encountered some unknowns on the site such as, underground tanks, special soils, and railroad ties just below the surface. We also encountered an unknown concrete structure which was clearly important at one time. Building 70,000 sf on a village site with three businesses in another building onsite presented challenges at times. Thankfully, My-Fit24, The Gorham School of Music, and The Little Red Schoolhouse Daycare were very excited about the project and very understanding. Our other neighbors were all very understanding as well. We implemented many measures to minimize our impact on neighboring businesses and residents with the largest one being the use of our ground floor footprint as a laydown area for the project. Overall, our challenges were just more opportunities for solutions, some requiring more time than others, but none were insurmountable.
MEREDA: Something unexpected you learned along the way was….
Great Falls Construction: During the process the unexpected for us was the need for this type of building in our community and the overall great response. From the moment we broke ground to today when we do tours community members love the idea of the live/work environment and the accessibility to everything that Gorham has to offer. All of the apartments are currently full and from the response from the tenants they love the location and safe living that happens at Station Square.
MEREDA: Now that it’s complete, what feature of the project do you think makes it the most notable?
Great Falls Construction: Station Square’s most notable feature is its ability to bring the community together. Gorham has never had somewhere to gather like Station Square and the community has made it known that it has become a quick staple for placemaking in our small Maine town. Station Square was made possible by countless talented individuals who worked their craft in order to make this community building such a large success. It will be exciting to now watch this building evolve in its role within the community. The ability to have hundreds of community members gather and socialize in a local, safe setting is the most rewarding testament to the vision and work of so many people.