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July 24, 2017 Focus: Real estate, construction and design

Bridgton native Justin McIver: A builder who's making a difference in his hometown

Photo / Tim Greenway Justin McIver, owner of Main Eco Homes, near the 5,000-square-foot, five bedroom custom home he built for Cindy and David Kennerson on Sebago Lake in Raymond.

Justin McIver, a Bridgton native, says his hometown is on the verge of a boom, and he wants to be a key part of it.

The owner of Main Eco Homes in Bridgton is hitting all areas of building: commercial, custom residential, rental and a 55+ retirement community of mostly solar-powered cottages.

“Bridgton is booming,” says McIver, who started Main Eco Homes a decade ago after working at his father's electrical business. “I'm reinvesting into the town. I'm trying to raise the standards in Bridgton.” The town has a year-round population of 5,210, according to the 2010 census, and that more than doubles when summer home owners and campers flock to the western lakes and mountains area.

He started by building custom, stick-framed homes in the lakes region, and that's still a large part of his business. But he's also building small, energy-efficient cottages for people who are near retirement or already retired. And he's building commercial sites, including a 10,000-square-foot building that will include his new headquarters, expanding it from the current 450 square feet to 3,000 square feet. It will accommodate 25 full-time employees and contractors and have a showroom for Main Eco developments. It also will include a new, 1,200-square-foot location for Scarborough's House of Lights, Androscoggin Home Care and Hospice and residential apartments ranging from $900 and up, with storage. And he built Carry All Corner that contains Towanda's Specialty Foods & Deli and the Firefly Boutique, plus a new building next to it where North Conway, N.H.-based Bavarian Chocolate Haus opened in mid-June and Lewiston's Bear Bones Beer plans to open by this fall. All are in Bridgton.

Future plans call for a mixed-use development on 135 acres he owns in Bridgton. He has approval to build 96 apartments in eight, 12,000-square-foot buildings, each with 12 units, and he plans to build out 18 residential lots and some commercial buildings. They all will have mountain views, as will the 100 homes he plans to build later behind that development. McIver also has purchased the former Saunders dowel mill, which he plans to turn into a hotel that can house convention-goers and a wedding party of up to 200 people.

Photo / Tim Greenway
A Main Eco Homes house in Raymond along Sebago Lake. The house features geothermal heating and cooling along with 19 solar panels among numerous other eco-friendly amenities.

“I did a survey and people wanted a hotel and convention center and a place to hold weddings,” McIver says. “I bought the old Saunders mill and want to turn it into a hotel. I'm looking for a hotel owner or developer to develop with on the project.”

For all the current and future building, he's working to develop a property management company, and just hired a property manager and a service manager. He plans to add four people this year to his current staff of 25, and four to 10 next year, depending on the economy.

McIver says he hasn't had trouble hiring skilled labor. “We pay our workers well for what they do, they have consistent work and they are paid every week.” He says 200 people are typically involved in the making of a building, including the local Hancock Lumber yard, truck drivers and others not directly employed by him.

“We do things right,” he says. “We care about the community.”

Building a reputation

Those who have worked with McIver say he is professional, always available to take care of a problem or answer a question and has a strong work ethic.

“We are very happy,” says Cindy Kennerson, who with her husband, David, hired Main Eco Homes to build their custom house on Sebago Lake in Raymond. “The job site was meticulously neat, there was attention to detail, the job was executed with care and he has high standards. He took the stress out of the building process. He really listens to you.”

“He knows what he's doing,” adds David Kennerson. The couple has always lived in Maine, and Kennerson is semi-retired from a couple car dealerships he owned. They have been in their 5,000-square-foot-plus home for two years. McIver says it is energy efficient and includes Energy Star appliances, LED lighting, water-sense fixtures and non-volatile-organic-compound paints. It also has 19 photovoltaic solar panels and geothermal heating and cooling.

“The homeowner told me his monthly summer utility bills average $100,” McIver says.

David Kennerson says his favorite part of the house is the screened porch off the bedroom. “We can have coffee and look at the lake.” The couple found McIver through an ad at a coffee shop, and immediately clicked with him and his ideas about the home.

Roger and Kim Dubay, homeowners on B Street, the second phase of The Cottages at Willett Brook, echo the experiences of the Kennersons.

“We've lived in Maine all our lives,” says Roger Dubay, who with wife Kim has been living at the Willett Brook development for five months in 788 square feet of space with a garage, front screened porch, basement, raised-bed garden and 13 solar panels. Both still are employed but nearing retirement age. Dubay drives the Portland to New York route for Concord Coach Lines and his wife makes crafts with fiber.

Dubay says he and Kim found McIver when taking a day trip to a waterfall near the Kancamagus Highway in New Hampshire. They had carved their initials on a tree there more than 37 years ago, while they were dating, and wanted to find the tree. En route, they spotted a model home McIver had built on Route 302 in Bridgton, stopped to look at it and then headed to the development, which is behind the nearby Hannaford supermarket.

“We never made it to the Kancamagus,” Dubay says. “I put down a refundable, $1,000 deposit on our spot on B Street, which wasn't yet built. Justin said he'd hold it for us as long as we were actively selling our former house.”

In the interim, McIver decided to move ahead and put in a foundation, then the outside of the house and the roof to use it as a model home. Once the Dubays sold their former house, they had the inside finished to their specifications.

“I liked the fact that he had a brochure that was like an a la carte menu from which you could pick out granite countertops, radiant heat, a porch out back or other features with fixed prices,” Dubay says. “Contractors we used previously didn't stick to a price when we were adding to our house.”

Dubay says the couple walks to the farmers market in downtown Bridgton every Saturday.

“And I like the idea of saving the environment. The savings help for us to plan for retirement, when we'll have a fixed income,” he says.

Building businesses

McIver also has courted and won over businesses including Bear Bones Beer, which plans to build out its second tap room and barrel aging operation in Bridgton, and Bavarian Chocolate Haus, which opened on June 22.

By July 3, Bavarian's sales in Bridgton already had topped those in North Conway, says Scott Ferrari, who co-owns the business with partner David Hallett.

Ferrari says they met McIver at his booth at the Fryeburg home and garden show seven years ago, and McIver kept courting them until they were ready to move in this year.

Says Ferrari, “David and I thought we needed to get into Bridgton now, as it's starting to take off.”

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