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April 13, 2018

Gardiner business park's proximity to interstates 'drives' interest

Courtesy / Magnusson Balfour Commercial & Business Brokers
Courtesy / Magnusson Balfour Commercial & Business Brokers
This aerial shows the newly renamed 95/295 Business Park at Libby Hill, in Gardiner, where Auburn Asphalt recently bought two lots.

GARDINER — The sale of two adjacent lots at Gardiner's 95/295 Business Park at Libby Hill signals continued interest in the park's primary advantage — proximity to Interstate 95 and Interstate 295 — combined with development incentives offered by the city.

And considerable interest from potential buyers in recent months stems in part from Portland's tight industrial inventory.

"I keep hearing about there's no industrial space in Portland," said Gardiner Economic Development Director Patrick Wright. "I'm eager to invite anyone who is finding themselves priced out of or unable to find industrial space in Portland to chat with us about how we might be able to help their business grow in central Maine."

Auburn Asphalt LLC purchased Lots 17 and 21, a combined 22.7 acres, from the city of Gardiner for $245,000. The deal closed March 23. Dennis Wheelock of Magnusson Balfour and Karen Rich of Cardente Real Estate brokered the deal.

Wheelock, who represented the city, said that when his company took over the park's marketing a year ago, he and Wright changed the name of the park, from the Libby Hill Business Park to the 95/295 Business Park at Libby Hill, to emphasize its strategic location.

"A lot of times, people weren't aware that the business park is strategically placed, sitting right up against I-295 and less than a mile from I-95," Wheelock said. "From this business park, within an hour's time, you reach about 70% of the people who live in Maine. It's a great distribution spot."

Shovel-ready lots

Courtesy / Magnusson Balfour Commercial & Business Brokers
Courtesy / Magnusson Balfour Commercial & Business Brokers
E.J. Prescott was one of the first buyers at the 95/295 Business Park at Libby Hill, in Gardiner.

Wheelock said he's seen considerable interest from commercial and industrial businesses. Recently, he was preparing for a second meeting with a potential buyer, had secured options on several lots, and was working with three businesses at different stages of permitting and financing.

All that activity signals a need for this kind of offering, given its location and the advantage of having infrastructure in place, he said.

Businesses looking at raw land have to factor in their costs to develop a road, water, sewer, electric utilities, and communications infrastructure. "Whereas that's all taken care of in this business park," he said. "Our price includes all of those costs and it's shovel-ready."

According to the City of Gardiner, park construction began in 2000 with Phase I's 120 acres and 12 lots; several lots were since combined. Phase II was 107 acres with 16 additional lots. Lots ranging from 2 to 20 acres are priced from $35,750 to $286,000. Wheelock said 10 lots remain.

The park sits just off I-295 Exit 49 and Route 201. It's home to one of the city's tax increment financing districts, utilizing credit enhancement agreements to encourage development.

New activity at the park

Photo / Tim Greenway
Photo / Tim Greenway
Patrick Wright, Gardiner's economic development director, says interest in Gardiner's 95/295 Business Park at Libby Hill is spurred by its proximity to Interstate 95 and Interstate 295, development incentives offered by the city and the tight market in Portland for industrial properties.

In Auburn Asphalt's case, said Wright, the agreement requires Auburn Asphalt to construct a building with a taxable value of at least $500,000 within two years. In exchange, the city will return 20% of municipal taxes to the company each year for 20 years.

Auburn Asphalt is part of the All States Materials Group, the latter headquartered in Sunderland, Mass. According to the All States website, Auburn Asphalt operates two hot-mix asphalt production facilities in Auburn and Windsor, providing hot mix service in the greater Augusta and Lewiston/Auburn markets.

Other businesses in the industrial park are Pine State Beverage; Everett J. Prescott Inc., Common Wealth Poultry, Scientific Games, Troiano Waste, Dennison Lubricants, Central Maine Meats, Oak Grove Crematorium, IKON and Crafts Transport.

Because Phase 1 immediately attracted E.J. Prescott, a wastewater solutions firm, and Pine State Beverage, said Wright, "There was a lot of feeling at that time that the lots would fill up immediately. So the city began development of Phase 2 before Phase 1 had even completely sold. The city broke ground on the project in August of 2008. We all know what happened around that time."

Sales plummeted with the recession.

"Nothing was selling in industrial land, and the city had a ton of debt associated with this park," Wright said. As a result, the city aggressively marketed and priced the lots. "I think the prices are still below market for the amenities that are associated with the park. So we've seen an increase in activity," particularly in recent months, he said.

The addition of Auburn Asphalt is hoped to provide enough energy demand to encourage Summit Natural Gas to extend its line to the park, Wright said, adding that the city is in conversation with Summit.

This would round out the park's infrastructure amenities including maintained roads, storm water, domestic water, sewer, three-phase power, and high speed internet to each lot.

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