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May 25, 2018

Construction to begin this summer on Phase 1 of Stroudwater Preserve residential subdivision

Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co. and Maine Imaging
Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co. and Maine Imaging
The recently completed purchase of the former Camelot Farm in Portland's Stroudwater neighborhood for $1.5 million is allowing developers to proceed with marketing Stroudwater Preserve, a residential subdivision that features green space and which will be built in phases. The property includes more than 2,000 feet along Westbrook Street and 1,500 feet along the Stroudwater River in Portland.

PORTLAND — The purchase of the former Camelot Farm in Portland's Stroudwater neighborhood allows developers to proceed with marketing Stroudwater Preserve, the residential subdivision and green space they've planned there.

Onex Co. sold 1700 Westbrook St. in Portland — comprising 44.8 acres, including a 4,418-square-foot California-style ranch house — to Stroudwater Development Partners LLC for $1.5 million. Craig Young of CBRE | The Boulos Co. represented the buyer and seller in the deal, which closed March 26.

Developers Mike Barton, Nate Libby and J. Hilary Rockett Jr. have site plan approval to construct in phases 97 single-family homes and 25 townhouses. Rockett is president of JHR Development in Marblehead, Mass. Barton is a managing partner of The Congress Group of Maine, offering construction management and owner representative services. Libby is president of Nate Libby's Masonry and is running the day-to-day construction of Stroudwater Preserve.

Barton and Libby have done business together since 2013 under the name Diversacorp in Saco, doing primarily moderately priced single-family and multi-family construction and some small commercial projects.

Barton, Libby and Rockett are developing the 1700 Westbrook St. project under the name Stroudwater Development Partners LLC. Barton and Libby have previously worked with Rockett on several projects over the past couple of years, including the Brunswick Station Apartments — 24 one- and two-bedroom units in two buildings at 19 Station Ave. in Brunswick.

Barton, a Portland native, said: "That was the inspiration for what we're trying to do. We like the classic feel and nature of Portland's neighborhoods. This is an opportunity to continue with those trends, with modest-size homes and smaller lots."

A spark lit

The property — Portland's largest residential lot — originally went on the market in 2015. The listing broker, CBRE | The Boulos Co., marketed it as a potential subdivision. The 45-acre, family-owned former farm on Westbrook Street is located near Portland's western border along the Stroudwater River. The property's location along existing water, sewer and gas lines was seen as making it well-suited for development as a residential subdivision, the Portland Press Herald reported at the time. The property was the Rogers' family estate since Peter and Mary Rogers built the house in 1961. The Press Herald reported at the time that their 11 children spread across the country decided they couldn't continue holding onto the property after Mary Rogers died in January 2015.

"From talking with their family, it sounded like there was never a dull moment," Barton said. "They raised Irish wolfhounds and a couple of the kids had horses."

Barton said that since he and Libby started working together, they've made it a goal to find ways to provide housing that's affordable to those of moderate income.

"We weren't specifically looking at this property," he said. "But I was driving out Westbrook Street one day and Nate was driving down Stroudwater Street the same day, and we both saw the [for-sale] sign and called each other. A spark was lit."

Challenging deal

The deal was challenging to navigate, he said.

"What we were proposing was a change to the landscape," he said. "The Stroudwater neighborhood has a certain feel, and there was fair amount of back and forth with abutters to explain to them what we were trying to do. That was a challenging process. In order to set aside the 25 acres of park-like space and ultimately convey that to Portland Trails and the city of Portland to operate as a park, we wanted to promote smaller houses" than was allowed by the zoning ordinance at the time. "So we had to request a zone change. That was a challenge to navigate. But ultimately, we were able to get people to understand what we were trying to do."

In the summer of 2017, the City Council approved the zoning change. But the project subsequently faced a citizen referendum that would have allowed the change to be blocked if 25% of voters who live within 500 feet of a zoning change filed written objections.

In November, Portland voters rejected the initiative.

Public green space

The Stroudwater Preserve project includes setting aside 25 acres of fields and woods surrounding the Stroudwater River for public use as recreational green space and access to the river. The preserved spaces will be accessible via the Portland Trails system.

The partners this week acquired a 75-foot-long pedestrian bridge from a private landowner in Portland for a potential river crossing, and is now working with the city and Portland Trails to figure out what's needed for permitting to install it.

In February 2017, the partners acquired an adjacent 10 acres of vacant land. That makes an overall development area of 55 acres.

The Rogers house will be taken down, said Barton.

Barton said the project is designed to help meet the need for market-rate housing in Portland.

"There's not a lot of acreage in Portland to be able to create a neighborhood from scratch," he said. "It was a good process to go through with the city. We've gone through the approval process and we're getting ourselves in position to start the infrastructure and earthwork in the coming weeks. We hope to start construction this summer."

In the meantime, the partners have started the marketing process. They've selected an initial package of five residential styles for prospective buyers to choose from, ranging in size from 1,400 square feet to 2,300 square feet. And they've set up a website, www.stroudwaterpreserve.com.

Investment for build-out is expected to be upward of $30 million, financed with conventional debt and private equity, he said. The first phase of construction will be 47 homes. Prices for homes will start in the high $300,000s and could be more, depending on the level of customization and size requested by buyers.

The need for this type of development in Portland is acute, he said.

"If you talk with anybody who's looking for a home — maybe they're getting out of a larger home or a renter looking to get into home ownership or someone relocating to Portland — there's a shortage of inventory of single-family home product in Portland."

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