A lot has happened at the former base, now called Brunswick Landing, Maine’s Center for Innovation, following the U.S. government’s decision to close Naval Air Station Brunswick in 2005 and its subsequent closure in 2011.
Well before the NASB disestablishment ceremony took place in May 2011, the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority (BLRA); a group of area citizens, local and state leaders, including members of the State Legislature and Brunswick Town Council, collaborated on what is known as the NASB Reuse Master Plan, which is implemented by MRRA. The development of the Plan was an intensive eighteen-month process, incorporating a substantial public engagement element, which included significant involvement by area citizens, civilian base employees and students from Brunswick, Mt. Ararat and Morse High schools. Adopted in 2007, the Reuse Master Plan serves as the foundation for the redevelopment effort for the former base. Its vision called for:
- A science and technology park in a campus environment.
- Centers of excellence in advanced technologies.
- Regional Executive Airport.
- Quality business-focused educational facilities.
- Renewable Energy development.
- Smart Growth focus.
- Affordable housing opportunities; and
- Open space and outdoor recreation opportunities
In keeping with the vision and promise of the reuse plan, one of the central tenets of MRRA’s redevelopment effort is to ensure that all land use activities are conducted in an environmentally sensitive matter, with a focus on sustainability and smart growth. To achieve that objective, MRRA has adopted development design guidelines and a natural resources management plan to ensure quality development as well as the preservation of natural areas and critical habitats on property it controls.
And we are keeping our promise to the plan. Since its closure in 2011, the redevelopment project has realized:
ü over $400 million in private sector investment in all targeted business sectors and new affordable workforce housing.
ü location of nearly 140 new business entities, with 60% being from out-of-state.
ü creation of over 2,200 good paying jobs.
ü long-term preservation of over 1,000 acres of coastal open spaces and critical habitats; and
ü 100% of its electric power used on Brunswick Landing is derived from renewable sources, the majority of which comes from on-campus generation (solar and anerobic digestion).
In addition to a well thought-out publicly accepted reuse plan, the major factors contributing to the success of the redevelopment effort include a strong implementation strategy and the lasting collaborations we have built with the town of Brunswick, state of Maine, the federal government and the private sector. We could not be successful without their collective belief in the plan and willingness to invest in its vision. It is for these reasons that the redevelopment of NAS Brunswick has been recognized as one of the most successful base reuse efforts in the country.
MRRA continues to receive property from the Navy once proper environmental clearances are obtained. More than 150 acres and a half dozen buildings are expected to be transferred by the end of 2021 or 2022. Before development occurs, MRRA goes through a planning process to determine the highest and best uses for the property in accordance with the Reuse Master Plan and the town of Brunswick’s Zoning Ordinance and property deeds.
Currently, MRRA is engaged in a planning effort for an approximately 144-acre parcel that was recently conveyed to us located on the west side of the former base, between Harpswell Road and Brunswick Executive Airport. The Reuse Master Plan recommended conveying approximately 275 acres of land to Bowdoin College through a public benefit conveyance (PBC) for the purpose of meeting its educational needs. Bowdoin has since concluded that 144 acres of the original parcel will not be needed for their purposes. The only legal conveyance mechanism available for the Navy was to transfer the land to MRRA as part of its Economic Development Conveyance (EDC).
Similar to the process that was conducted in the original planning effort, MRRA has engaged a consultant, Sebago Technics, to work with us, the town staff, and the public to develop a land use vision for the parcel, which will modify the existing plan. As part of this process they have documented the existing natural, and man-made, and conditions of the land and will develop various scenarios based on public input for how the land could be used. Because of Covid-19 restrictions for the assemblies of people, Sebago Technics developed and employed an innovative virtual public engagement strategy and survey instrument to guide this process. Over 530 people participated in the on-line virtual tours of the parcel and the initial survey, which is very exciting.
Once we have a preferred land use scenario agreed to, MRRA will be working with our consultants and the town of Brunswick to develop the appropriate zoning and comprehensive plan language to reflect this final vision.
If you want to learn more about the Reuse Master Plan or other activities MRRA is engaged with, they are available on the mrra.us website. And as always, feel free to contact us any time with questions or concerns.
Steve Levesque is the Executive Director of the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority.