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May 7, 2018

Criterium Engineers moving to Freeport

Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co.
Courtesy / CBRE | The Boulos Co.
Alan Mooney purchased 5 Depot St. in Freeport for just under $1.99 million and will move his company, Criterium Engineers, there from Portland.

FREEPORT — Earlier this year, Criterium Engineers President Alan Mooney was made an offer he couldn't refuse on 22 Monument Square in Portland, a historic property he had purchased in 1999.

That opened the way to finding a newer property in downtown Freeport that will provide an opportunity for his company to be all on one floor and develop modern infrastructure it needs.

Mooney purchased 5 Depot St. in Freeport — a 23,620-square-foot, two-story commercial building on 0.88 acre — from Timm Holdings LLC for $1,987,500. Drew Sigfridson, Dan Greenstein and Catie Seavey of CBRE | The Boulos Co. brokered the deal, which closed April 6.

The deal was the latest link in a chain of activity begun by Bill Stauffer, another client of CBRE | The Boulos Co.

"He really loves historical buildings and was looking to do a 1031 exchange," Sigfridson said of Stauffer. "He identified 22 Monument Square as a building that he really loved. Alan wasn't looking to sell 22 Monument Square and didn't have it on the market."

But Stauffer made an unsolicited offer of $2.1 million. That was in January and it triggered Mooney's search for new headquarters.

The terms of the sale included a year-long lease for Criterium, giving Mooney time to find for a new location that would make more sense for his firm, which at 22 Monument Square was spread over 2 1/2 floors.

That search took several months, covering an area from Portland up to Freeport and out toward Westbrook. The parameters included having enough space for Criterium plus space for tenants to provide additional income. Mooney considered half a dozen buildings and visited two or three.

Mooney said he also wanted to find an architecturally interesting building, one he could get excited about as more than just an investment.

"There weren't a lot of options available that had enough vacant space," said Sigfridson.

The Freeport property was on the market for less than six months. Sigfridson said it proved ideal for its size, diversity of existing tenants, nearby parking opportunities and location in a walkable downtown where Mooney's employees could enjoy the local amenities. The proceeds from the Portland sale were used for the Freeport purchase.

Built in 1985 as an indoor retail mall, 5 Depot St. is on the corner of Bow Street and Depot Street, directly across from Freeport Village Station. It's in the center of numerous national and local retailers that attract over 3.5 million visitors annually. Tenants in the complex include Edward Jones, Wildflower, Maine Optometry, Casco Bay Cutlery and Kitchenware.

"Freeport is a nice place to locate a business because there's a nice mix of activity there," said Mooney, reached in late April for a second conversation.

Mooney said Freeport's walkability, with shops and restaurants, is a bit like Portland. "We're excited about it. And we're excited about bringing new life to that building, which has had some vacancies for a while," he said. "Overall, I think it's going to be fun to be in Freeport."

Renovations underway

Courtesy / Criterium
Courtesy / Criterium
Alan Mooney is renovating 5 Depot St. in Freeport for his company and other tenants.

Criterium, founded in 1957, provides investigative and diagnostic engineering services for buildings. Mooney joined the firm in 1974 and purchased it in 1988. Today, Criterium has offices across North America, and provides more than 20,000 building inspections annually.

Mooney said he's been making a point of getting in touch with others in Freeport — town officials, other business owners and the like — interested in the town's economic and community development.

"It seems like there's a lot to of community spirit in Freeport," Mooney said. "There are a lot of people working together to have Freeport stay interesting and exciting and viable."

Mooney said the 5 Depot St. building was 50% vacant when he bought it. One company that took up about 5,000 square feet on the second floor had moved out a year previously. That space has remained vacant, along with spaces on the first floor, he said.

Mooney plans to move his company late this year.

"I've got lots of work to do in the [Freeport] building and with prospective tenants," he said. I already have a contractor starting work on certain parts of the building" starting with installing a new heat pump for one of the existing tenants.

Additional work includes opening up some walls, upgrading lights to LEDs, upgrading portions of the HVAC system and renovations for the 5,000-square-foot second-floor space Criterium will be moving into. Tentatively planned are renovations due to movements and expansions of existing tenants. There will be some "freshening up" with new paint, signage and accent trim. And a new WiFi system was recently activated.

Mooney expects the additional investment to be about $200,000.

A fun little surprise happened as Mooney and his wife Susan were looking at what they thought was a closet off the main lobby, then realized, given the building's age, it was an old phone booth.

Mooney is working with CBRE | Boulos to advertise the available space and also reaching out to businesses himself. He's already heard from several prospects.

There will be a bit of transition for Criterium employees. Mainely, said Mooney, the commute will be shorter for some, longer for others.

"On average, our commute will be 1 to 2 miles different," he said. "Generally speaking, most folks are getting comfortable, and a few are even excited about being in Freeport, even if they have to drive longer. We'll probably work out something to facilitate the transition, maybe an extra travel allowance. I have a lot of good people who work for me and I don't want to lose any of them."

One of the Freeport building's biggest appeals is the ability to locate all of Criterium on one floor.

"Being all on one floor was a fairly high priority," he said. "It will be better for us business-wise," with no sense of directing clients to one floor or another."

Mooney added that it gives his company an "opportunity to work our way into the 21st century."

"I've had my IT guy out there and we're talking about better facilities in the conference room and a better office layout," he said. "Here [in Portland], we adapted to what the building had to offer. But in Freeport, that 5,000 square feet on the second floor is pretty wide open at this point, and we get to do whatever we want — which folks have told me is good news/bad news. Everyone has their own opinion of what that should be. There are the open-office advocates and there are the private-office advocates, so it will be an interesting process to get settled on that."

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