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June 11, 2021

Big redevelopment project proposed at Kennebunkport’s historic Colony Hotel

hotel and beach Courtesy / The Colony Hotel Major redevelopment is planned on the grounds of the Colony Hotel, a Kennebunkport resort that dates back to 1914.

A major redevelopment project may be coming to the grounds of the historic Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport.

A proposal, in the review stage before the Kennebunkport Planning Board, consists of renovations, demolition and new construction on acreage around the Colony, which anchors the site.

In all, the redevelopment would raze eight buildings, construct five new ones, expand a building, and create additional parking lots and utilities. A total of 18,000 square feet in new commercial space would be added. The proposal also calls for reconstructing a portion of Colony Avenue, which runs east-west and divides the two halves of the campus.

The project would be divided into two phases, focusing on the northern and southern halves.

The focus for now is on the north campus, Robert Harbeson, a principal with Market Square Architects of Portsmouth, N.H., told the board at a recent virtual hearing on the project.

The aesthetics of the new construction would echo the traditional style of the Colony. 

Century-old resort

Designed by famed Maine architect John Calvin Stevens, the Colony opened in 1914 as the Breakwater Court, according to its website.

In 1935, the Boughton family bought a Delray Beach, Fla., hotel called the Colony. A family member bought the Breakwater Court in 1947 to complement the Florida Colony.

The Breakwater’s name was changed to the Colony Hotel and opened for the summer season in 1948.  The family bought a beach across the street the following year and subsequently acquired additional buildings and acreage.

The Colony has been in the Boughton family since then. The ownership’s name is the Boughton Hotel Corp. 

The seasonal hotel contains 125 guest rooms in five buildings that overlook the ocean and the Kennebunk River. In addition to a variety of dining options, amenities include a heated saltwater pool, a private beach, an 18-hole putting green, a business center and flower gardens.

The Colony is Maine’s first "green" hotel, according to its website, with a variety of programs to reduce waste and conserve energy.

The team

In addition to Market Square Architects, the design and engineering team so far includes Wright-Ryan of Portland and Walsh Engineering Associates of Westbrook.

Initial design work was performed by Windward Development Inc. of New Canaan, Conn. 

sketch of hotel
Courtesy / Windward Development
This initial sketch design of Building 1 depicts the traditional aesthetic style planned for the project.

The precedent for the master plan is “the quintessential New England village with its town green,” according to the application, in a reference to the town of Kennebunkport.

Kennebunkport’s center is a mile from the Colony’s  campus. 

The design looks at Colony Avenue as an entrance to the hotel campus and also to neighboring Cape Arundel, the application says.

Cape Arundel is a headland less than a mile south of the hotel.

‘Village’ feel

The proposal seeks to establish a park or “town green” that evokes “the ‘village’ of Kennebunkport and the Cape Arundel neighborhood,” the application says.

The proposal includes relocating utilities from overhead to underground, constructing a sidewalk on the south side of Colony Avenue, and creating over an acre of green space with rolling terrain and lawn surrounded by newly planted indigenous trees, benches and stone walls. 

Amenities of the project would include beach access, green spaces with walking trails, an open-air market and eatery, meeting facilities and a health club facility.

“All new buildings will be set back from the road to create a quiet park like setting between the campuses and will establish multiple green spaces which the guests and the community can experience,” the application says. 

Currently, there is one main gathering place on the terrace of the south campus. 

“The expansion of green spaces will enable visitors to spread out and enjoy the natural setting,” the application continues. “Our proposal is compatible with the existing architecture within this historic neighborhood and will preserve the unique physical character of the Colony Hotel and Cape Arundel.”

Residential scale

The north campus portion of the project would involve demolition of existing buildings and parking areas, followed by construction of two residentially scaled buildings set back from the street. Multiple parking areas and a nature walk would also be installed. 

aerial of buildings
Courtesy / Windward Development
The road running from left to right is Colony Avenue. The hotel’s north campus is above Colony Avenue and the south campus, with the Colony Hotel at the center, is below the road.

Building 1 would house guest rooms and a meeting space As the design stands now, it would be broken into three interconnected sections to reduce visual impact. 

“The design on the north campus will be in keeping with the orientation of the original hotel directly across from it to the south, and the buildings and parking on the north campus also will be placed along a crescent drive,” the application says. “More specifically, the north campus will provide a separate hotel experience.”

Building 2 would house an open-air market and eatery on the ground level and approximately six hotel rooms on the second level. 

In all, a maximum of 65 hotel rooms would be constructed on the north campus. The exact number hasn’t yet been determined. 

Reconstruction of Colony Avenue is proposed in order to provide a straighter road alignment.

The north campus piece of the project would increase the commercial floor space on the entire site from about 19,500 square feet to 33,000 square feet, according to the application.

The south campus portion consists of demolishing four buildings, constructing one new building, and expanding the Colony’s main building.

There are currently 105 guest rooms and 44  employee dorm rooms on the south campus. The proposed construction would result in no change in room count there.

The south campus piece of the project would increase commercial floor space from about 79,000 square feet to 83,500 square feet.

Making it real

Design and engineering are underway to tackle specifics such as stormwater management, utility placement and grading, Harbeson told the board.

“We’re making it more real, so it can be buildable,” he said.

Architectural styling would include “traditional regional detailing” and red roofs such as that seen at the Colony now, he said.

The redevelopment was conceived about two years ago, said John Martin, a managing partner and one-third owner of Boughton Hotel Corp. and the Colony Hotel, as well as the hotel’s general manager. 

Planning board members and a local resident brought up concerns for the team to consider, including having “bird-friendly” windows and potential impacts on traveling Colony Avenue and adjacent roadways during construction. 

Martin said the team is working on the construction schedule, but plans to avoid building during the summer in order to operate the hotel and also to avoid impacting travel on the roads during the busy visitor season. He said he expects construction would be shut down from mid- to late May to September or October. 

The summertime shutdowns would extend the construction timeframe from what would otherwise be an approximately two-year project, he added.

Martin told the board he didn’t have a budget estimate yet.

Harbeson said that, as the design moves forward, the team will plan to meet with abutters to talk about the proposal.

Team members said they expect to submit more detailed plans to the board this summer.

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