BRUNSWICK — Sue Spann has been a real estate agent in the Brunswick area for decades, but she’s never dealt with anything quite like what’s going on at Brunswick Landing.
“It’s pretty exciting,” she said this week. Spann, broker/owner at RE/MAX Riverside in Brunswick, is the selling agent, with partner Lula Hansen, for 146 units of housing that are coming available for sale at the former Navy base.
“I’ve the next three years over 400 units are coming onto the market [for sale and rent],” she told Mainebiz.
In the seven years since the Navy turned the base over, 110 businesses have generated 1,700 jobs under the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority. The conversion of the former Navy residences, as well as new construction on the campus, is part of that wave.
Brunswick Landing Venture bought 334 units on 120 acres at the former base and another 73 in Topsham from Auburn developer George Schott last year. The firm, locating at the former base, bought 190 units of rental housing from the Navy in February. They announced conversion plans last month.
Chris Rhoades, of BLV, said Monday when he and the other members of the real estate investment group bought the property, it was with the intention of renting the units out, not selling them.
“But we were losing a lot of tenants looking to buy, or asking if they could buy their units,” he said. Housing includes duplexes and single-family homes, which are being sold as condominiums and simple-fee dwellings.
Since the decision was made, word has gotten out.
For instance, of 14 three-bedroom ranch houses at Brunswick Gardens, listed for $225,000, only three remain available.
There are five areas of housing at Brunswick Landing, all in the northeast corner of the 3,200-acre campus, and another 73 units at Patriot Commons in Topsham that the group will eventually convert as well, Rhoades said.
Besides the Brunswick Gardens ranch-style houses, there are also 30 two-story Brunswick Garden town homes. Woodland Village has 94 two-story townhouses with attached garages. The town houses range from $175,000 to $250,000.
There are also eight single-family homes at Station Quarters, starting at $150,000.
Spann and Rhoades say that while the list prices for the housing is low compared to the rest of the region, new construction planned there will be more in line with the market.
The group plans to build 40 condominium units on empty land between the established developments. Those units will be two and three bedrooms, with master suites and two-car garages — a little more high-end than the former Navy housing. They’ll also have full foundations, where possible, rather than the slab most of the Navy housing is built on.
Some will be two story, and some one story, but all will have the same roofline, with the one-story units having high ceilings, said Chris Robbins, who manages the property.
Spann said that many of those who come to open houses now are the 50-and-over crowd, and many want single-story homes as they get older.
“With the aging population, ranches just fly,” she said. “People want a first-floor bedroom.”
With housing inventory so slow in the area, the interest in the planned new construction is high, even though they haven’t marketed it, or even built it, yet.
“I’m hearing about it, people want to know about it,” she said. “Inventory is at such critical levels that, for people to get what they want, they need new construction.”
BLV’s 120 acres on the campus was subdivided last year into 10 parcels, separating the areas with the existing construction, and laying out areas where new units will be built.
The Planning Board in April gave initial approval for 40 new condominium units, which are being built by Brunswick Landing Condominiums, with a final vote scheduled for June 5.
The new housing will be built on areas left vacant where the Navy tore down aging housing in the early 2000s, and will be listed for $290,000 to $325,000. More may be built after the first phase.
Rhoades said the units are being built on spec, adding, “We’ll build a few and see if they sell.”
The plan also includes rental housing.
Rental units being upgraded include Mariner’s Landing townhouses, 126 units; Midway Terrace, which has 62 garden apartments, and 190 units of what was once called “bachelor housing” and is now Pegasus Landing.
The 750-square foot Pegasus Landing apartments have been largely empty for the past few years.
“We’re taking some rental property out of the market, so we’re replenishing it,” Rhoades said.
Robbins, of Foreside Real Estate Management, said all the property that’s being marketed needed upgrades, everything from flooring to appliances.
The Pegasus Landing apartments, which are next door to the Brunswick Parks and Recreation center on the campus, are two stories, with a kitchen and bathroom downstairs and two rooms upstairs. While small, they are Navy-efficient, with stacked washers and dryers and storage space.
BLV is installing new wifi and satellite TV, which will be included with the rent, and replaced counter-top stoves with full ovens.
Robbins said the wifi will extend to the outdoor common areas, which will include bike racks and picnic tables.
Current tenants at Brunswick Landing properties get first dibs on buying, and 15 to 20 have expressed an interest.
The rental property will also be available to current tenants before the public, Rhoades said.
Spann was on the Brunswick Local Redevelopment Authority, which was set up when the Navy announced in 2005 that the base was closing
A lot has happened since then, at the former base as well as in the region and to the housing market.
When the housing market crisis hit in 2008, both new construction and land sales “really took a dive,” she said. But that’s rebounding.
The BLRA is long gone, and Spann said the redevelopment vision for the base has happened a lot faster that what it had envisioned.
MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque said earlier this year the number of jobs on campus is expected to hit 2,000 by the end of the year.
Drew Preston, Rhoades’ partner, said that the need for the housing isn’t just for the jobs Brunswick Landing will generate in the future.
“It’s what’s needed today, not three years, four years, five years from now,” Preston said.
The Presidium Group, a Dallas-based real estate company that owns thousands of rental units in Texas and Oklahoma, is also part of the team.
Engineering work is being done by Sightlines PA, of Brunswick, and Seabreeze Property Services, of Portland, is the landscaper.
BLV plans an open house at its 74 Neptune Drive headquarters on Saturday, June 9, to show off the property, with a shuttle running to all the sites.
Rhoades said when they bought the property last year, the group wasn’t thinking about the low housing inventory in the area, but now it’s become “a unique opportunity.”
“It’s exciting, what’s possible,” he said.