October 23, 2019
Brunswick’s Merrymeeting Plaza evolving with Cook’s Corner’s development
Owners of Merrymeeting Plaza at Cook’s Corner in Brunswick want to attract a mix of local and national retailers to the 160,000-square-foot mall — that’s nothing new.
But, as retail evolves in general and the largely commercial neighborhood near the Brunswick and Bath border evolves as well, there’s a focus on more than retail.
“We are working to attract uses and services that best serve the greater Brunswick community,” said Nick Margitza, of Boston-based WS Development, the mall’s owner.
“We want to attract business owners who will collaborate with existing retailers to benefit their business and vice versa,” Margitza told Mainebiz. “We envision a variety of businesses at the shopping center and are interested in attracting atypical uses like daycare facilities, dentist offices, fitness locations and more restaurants, with the goal of serving the needs of the community.”
Merrymeeting Plaza is on Bath Road, just west of its intersection with Route 24 and the connector to U.S. Route 1, and across the street from the 3,400-acre Brunswick Landing business, innovation and technology campus.
One of the most recent new tenants at the shopping center is Pepper’s Landing restuarant, which in May opened in 3,200 square feet of space at the east end of the mall previously occupied by Talbot’s, a women’s clothing store.
The restaurant, which specializes is seafood, is owned by Ian Miller and Morey Highbarger, of Sea Salt Lobster in Saco.
Margitza said that restaurants are good attractors for malls. “Adding a restaurant extends the hours of activity at the plaza,” he said. “We aim to continue making Merrymeeting a vibrant place throughout the day and would love to attract breakfast/coffee shop as well.”
He said they want to make the mall a convenient place for people. “That means offering the services that are part of people’s day-to-day activity,” he said. “For example, salons, medical, dining, entertainment and fitness.”
A regional ebb and flo
Merrymeeting Plaza owners WS Development owns 15 retail properties in Maine, including Hannaford center adjacent to the Maine Mall in South Portland; the Marketplace at Augusta, which at 1.3 million square feet is the state’s largest open air mall; and Westbrook Crossing.
Merrymeeting Plaza opened in 1993. It was extensively renovated in 2004 to relocate Shaw’s and bring in new tenants, including a large Borders bookstore. The next year, the U.S. Navy announced that the Brunswick Naval Air Station, which is across Bath Road from the plaza, would close.
The base finally closed in 2011, though much of its active personnel and left years before, and with them 6,500 jobs in the area, and a peak $140 million payroll that had fueled the local economy.
The mall, a dozen years after opening had lost tenants, including the Borders bookstore when that company folded in 2011, as well as Fashion Bug, Old Navy and other retailers. But in 2016, as Brunswick Landing’s development generated more traffic in the area, it was renovated to include Bed, Bath & Beyond and PetSmart.
Brunswick Landing since it opened in 2011, has created 2,000 jobs on the site. More than 500 units of housing, both owner-occupied and rental has also been added or is planned.
Brunswick Landing also draws students of both the Southern Maine and Community College and the University of Maine at Augusta, which both have campuses onsite.
An access road Landing Road, that was a collaboration between the city of Brunswick and the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, which oversees Brunswick Landing, opened in early September. The road connects Route 24 to the Brunswick Landing residential area.
Priority Group Realty plans to build 144 units of rental housing on Landing Road.
Well-positioned for growth
Some of the Brunswick Landing retail being developed by Priority Group is along Bath Road, directly across from Merrymeeting Plaza.The first business to go be developed on the swath of empty lots was an Irving gas station and Rusty Lantern convenience store, which opened in 2017. Last year, an 11,000-square foot medical office and retail space opened at the intersection of Bath Road and Admiral Fitch Drive.
Priority Group is planning new construction that includes a coffee shop on the lot between its two developed sites near an intersection with Merrymeeting Plaza.
Steve Levesque, MRRA executive director, recently told Mainebiz that Brunswick Landing’s growth has had a major impact on the area around it.
“There are so many things going on outside the boundaries of the base,” he said. “The base has really become a catalyst for development, and that’s pretty exciting.”
That includes the Cooks Corner Shopping Center, just east of Merrymeeting Plaza, at the intersection of Bath Road and Route 24, which is also undergoing a major renovation, including addition of a Hannaford supermarket.
Margitza said all the development at Cook’s Corner is welcome.
“We are continually impressed with the developments completed and underway at Brunswick Landing,” Margitza said. “Their growth undoubtedly benefits all neighboring businesses. The overall growth in businesses, residences and traffic from Brunswick Landing play a crucial role in the vibrancy of the Cook’s Corner’s region and our ability to attract retailers.”
By: Maureen Milliken