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January 18, 2017

A small, but significant sale in Westbrook

PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCOTT SMITH The sale of 212 Brown St. in Westbrook was one sign investors in apartment buildings are migrating to Portland's surrounding communities, driven by greater availability and more affordable purchase prices.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF SCOTT SMITH Detail of 212 Brown St. in Westbrook.

WESTBROOK—The purchase of a small building housing four apartments and a couple of commercial spaces at 212 Brown St. in Westbrook might seem a trivial event in the world of commercial transactions.

But it actually speaks to the purchasers’ larger vision of Westbrook as a terrific residential market for those with moderate income, given slim pickings for the demographic in next-door Portland.

Scott Smith, his brother Kurt Smith and their long-time friend Marc Cole purchased the property, under the name Clarke Painting Inc., from Tee LLC for $400,000, in a deal that closed Jan. 7. Greg Perry of Cardente Real Estate represented the seller and Scott Smith, who is a broker with the Maine Real Estate Network, represented himself and his partners.

“Westbrook is the last affordable town next to Portland,” said Scott Smith, who added, “We’re not having any trouble finding great tenants.” Tenants currently include some University of New England students who found they could get cheaper rent in Westbrook but still be close enough to classes in Portland to commute.

The Smiths and Cole are Portland natives who used to wrestle together when they were in high school. About 10 years ago, they formed a couple of different businesses, both based in Westbrook. Clarke Painting takes on paint contracting jobs, and Clarke Holdings LLC is a full-service property management company. The latter comprises management both for properties owned by the three partners (seven properties consisting of 22 apartments, currently) and those owned by other landlords (about 70 apartment units currently). They enjoy the city of Westbrook, said Scott, and have made it the focus of property acquisition.

“We all have the same goal of buying Westbrook properties and improving the town as much as we can, because we see a lot of potential there,” he said.

The partners have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the renovation of their Westbrook properties since 2010. Although 212 Brown St. required only minimal renovation after the purchase closed, the majority of the purchases have been distressed properties requiring extensive rehab.

Westbrook has been evolving in recent years as a community attractive to younger renters, said Smith. That includes new businesses such as Mast Landing Brewing, formed in 2015, and a Hawaiian restaurant called Big Fin Poké. Smith said there’s a rumor of another brewery coming to town.

“That all brings a lot of foot traffic,” he said. “For a long time, there was no reason to stop in Westbrook.”

Smith said 212 Brown St. is uniquely positioned, as a mixed-use residential/commercial property, in the middle of an improving Westbrook neighborhood.

“The location is amazing and there is a lot of positive growth with the breweries coming into town and varying array of food choices,” he said.

The 6,000-square-foot mixed-use building includes four apartments on the second floor, two commercial spaces on the first floor, and a vacant third story that’s not currently rentable space. There are four parking spots.

One of the commercial spaces is occupied by a bar, Live at 212, that Smith said has recently become a popular host of rock and metal shows.

“They have a great business there,” he said. “We were impressed to see how well the current owner of that bar is running it.”

The other commercial space houses a commercial kitchen for a local beverage company, he said.

The neighborhood is primarily residential.

“That’s part of what makes it a unique property, that there’s a cool bar and music venue in the middle of a residential neighborhood,” said Smith. “It’s also a very walkable neighborhood.”

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