Freeport Village Center


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Jun 14, 2006
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More opportunities for tourists' wallets to hemorrhage in Freeport are on the way. This plan comes complete with plenty of "free" parking (Freeport taxpayers will actually pay the bill), which ought to do wonders for the June-through-January traffic jam on Main Street.


Courtesy the "on the boards" section of Arrowstreet Architects:
Bean sees theme park on horizon
Besides shopping, Freeport visitors could stay for a while and play at a 700-acre outdoor adventure center.

L.L. Bean plans to develop a 700-acre outdoor adventure center in Freeport, with the goal of creating a national recreation destination.

Visitors might hike, bike, play golf or cross-country ski on the site off Desert Road, or go kayaking, seal watching or fishing in nearby Casco Bay. Then they could eat and stay the night on the property.

The company also hopes these visitors would stop by the flagship store and buy products and services to help them enjoy the activities.

No development costs, visitor projections or employment estimates are being publicly discussed at this point. Still, the project represents a major undertaking and expansion of strategic direction for Bean, a family-owned company with net revenue last year of $1.5 billion.

Roughly 3 million people walk through the Freeport stores every year, making L.L. Bean Maine's second-most popular tourism destination behind Acadia National Park.

In recent years, Bean has branched out into recreation through its Outdoor Discovery Schools. A destination adventure center such as the one being discussed would propel Bean from being a store, mail-order retailer and a brand into a full-fledged outdoor experience, the company said Monday.

"It's quite a stepping out for us," said Carolyn Beem, a Bean spokeswoman. "But it's something we think is exciting and can really take off."

Bean is on a fast track to make the project happen. It plans to pick finalists early next month to submit proposals for how to develop the project. It wants to see the theme park operating within three years.

"It is an aggressive timetable," Beem said. "But if we're going to do it, let's do it. It's where we want to position ourselves."

Bean operates seven full-price retail stores and 14 outlets on the East Coast. It plans to open 35 more full-price stores within five years, and future stores also could be linked to outdoor adventure centers in other states, Beem said.

In developing its vision, Bean didn't draw inspiration from retail competitors, said Brad Kauffman, senior vice president for strategic planning. Rather, it saw an opportunity to capitalize on the broader trend of experiential tourism.

"This is consistent with what we think people want in terms of travel and vacation," Kauffman said.

Details of Bean's plan are contained in a confidential document that asks an undisclosed number of national hotel development companies to spell out their qualifications for handling such a project. The Press Herald obtained a copy of the request, and Bean agreed to discuss it Monday.

Here's a summary:

The company wants to develop an outdoor adventure center with lodging and dining on 700 acres it owns at the corner of Desert Road and Interstate 295. A nine-hole golf course currently operates on part of the site. The course could be integrated, redeveloped or removed, depending on the final shape of the project.

Bean is considering a variety of activities, including hiking, biking, camping, orienteering, climbing walls and skating.

"The overarching goal," the company wrote, "is to expand our relationship with our customers, enhance the customer experience (with Bean) and draw more customers to L.L. Bean's flagship store in Freeport, Maine, for a fuller experience of the brand."

Bean is asking hotel development companies to help it with some of the marketing research, design and development, and management of daily operations. Bean doesn't want to operate a hotel and related facilities. A developer would have to finance and own the buildings; Bean would offer a long-term lease on its land and plans to achieve "a reasonable financial return."

As a concept, Bean envisions a "family-friendly outdoor adventure attraction with lodging amenities under something similar to a theme park operating model." The lodging facility could be branded as L.L. Bean, or could be independently or nationally branded with a Bean reference.

"The Desert Road Project must fit with the L.L. Bean brand image and support retail sales; therefore, outdoor-oriented amenities and facilities are critical," the document says.

Bean's Outdoor Discovery Schools program has a service that allows visitors to walk into the store and sign up for lessons to fly-cast or paddle a sea kayak, for example. These activities are very popular, according to Kauffman, and Bean has found they generate good customers who buy products. Creating an adventure center where people can stay and participate in these and other outdoor activities takes the formula to a higher level, he said.

A Bean-branded outdoor adventure center also would help Freeport broaden its appeal and economic development efforts. The town is world-known as a shopping destination, but it has recently begun an effort to get more people to stay and do other things.

"It would make Freeport an even more attractive place to visit," said Steve Lyons, marketing director at the Maine Office of Tourism. "Freeport could be turned into an outdoor destination, rather than just a place to shop."

That view was echoed by Dick Collins, executive director of the Freeport Merchants Association. Bean's project would just make the town a more attractive place to visit, he said.

Bean makes it clear in its request document that it reserves the right to revise or terminate the process and timeline. It's a complex mix of lodging, real estate development and recreational activities, Kauffman said, so the company needs to assemble the right team of consultants and developers to make it happen.

The company issued its request late last month, but declined to say which firms received copies. It plans to pick finalists on June 29, and invite them to respond to a formal request for proposals
Six-screen cinema eyed for Freeport

By Beth Brogan, Times Record Staff
Tuesday, June 29, 2010 2:10 PM EDT
BRUNSWICK ? When the next Harry Potter movie rolls out the red carpet in November of this year, movie buffs in Freeport might be able to watch the film on one of six new screens in town.

Berenson Associates, developers of Freeport Village Station, hope to open a six-screen movie theater by the end of the year beneath the L.L. Bean Outlet at the corner of Mill and Depot streets.

?It could be really fun,? Al Yebba, chief operating officer of Berenson Associates, said Monday. ?It could be great for the town and great for the project.?

Although he declined to name the franchise until the Freeport Town Council has been notified, Yebba said he has identified a theater operator for the project.

Yebba has been working with town staff on a proposal for the theater, and the plans are in the final stages, he said. With the final approvals already in place to modify the building for the screens, ?the final piece of the puzzle is a TIF (tax-increment financing district), and we have a meeting with the council next week to discuss if it will come together.?

A tax-increment financing district is a locally approved plan that allows municipalities to earmark property taxes for economic development or other specific municipal uses. When new commercial development happens, a town can set aside the new taxes generated by the increase in valuation on the property and shelter it from county taxes and from the valuation formula for state aid to education.

Yebba confirmed that the council would be asked to approve a credit-enhancement TIF, which allows a municipality to return to a developer a portion of the property taxes paid on new valuation.

Freeport Village Station project broke ground in March 2008, a year-and-a-half after the Town Council amended an existing TIF to return to Berenson Associates $17.5 million in property taxes over 20 years. That money is earmarked to reimburse the developer for the cost of the 550-space parking garage included in the complex.

Since then, Yebba and various town staff have worked to develop a proposal for a

cinema, but Yebba said, ?These are very difficult things to do financially, and it?s taken a little bit of time. We?ve had to be very creative, but we?re just about there. With any luck, we?ll have it in there ... by the end of the year.?

Sandra Updegraph, director of Freeport Economic Development Corp., who has worked on the proposal with Town Manager Dale Olmstead, Town Planner Donna Larson and Finance Director Abigail Yacoben, said the project ?would really bring several different partners together to help make sure the financing is in place.?

?Bottom line, our goal has been to make Freeport more of a destination for folks,? Olmstead said Monday. ?We have a lot of people in Freeport ? residents and non-residents alike ? who ask what there is to do in Freeport besides shop ... there?s a lot of public interest in this.?

?It?s going to take a partnership involving Berenson, L.L. Bean and the town to make it happen,? Olmstead said of the cinema. ?The best ideas are going to be shared with the council in executive session on (July 6) ? what the town would need to do to make this happen.?

Should the council decide to move forward, a public hearing on the proposed TIF would be the next step.

?The theater itself is something the community really wants, and I know the Berenson folks really want it as well,? Updegraph said, pointing to a community survey conducted in 2007 for the town of Freeport by Market Decisions in Portland. Mailed to 2,513 households, the survey asked residents a series of questions, including what they would most like to see in town.

Of the 703 completed and returned surveys, ?Head and shoulders above any other request for a new business in town was a movie theater,? Updegraph said Monday.

Little more than a year after Freeport Village Station?s opening, a slew of retail outlets now occupies space in the 120,000-square-foot development. Just last month, international hamburger chain Johnny Rockets opened a franchise there. Yebba said Monday that by creating an ?entertainment zone? in town, people will have a reason to stay after retail shops close.

?Unless you give people a reason to stay (in town), they won?t,? Yebba said. ?It?s a way to appeal to people who don?t typically go to the downtown at that time of day ? a whole new customer base. We really need to make it as vibrant as possible.?
What has happened with the L.L. Bean project described above in the 2007 article?
LL Bean has basically taken over Freeport.

This rendering shows a proposed movie theater in the Freeport Village Station complex. An informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday in the station?s Mallet Building.



Developer of Freeport movie theater seeks town funding
Without $750,000 in tax increment financing, the $2.3 million project will not be feasible, the firm says.

By Ann S. Kim
Staff Writer

The developer of Freeport Village Station will explain at a public meeting Monday how it plans to build a six-screen movie theater and use money from tax increment financing districts to cover some of the cost.
click image to enlarge

Boston-based Berenson Associates plans to build the 16,000-square-foot theater in its 120,000-square-foot shopping complex bordered by Main, Mill, Depot and Bow streets. The theater would replace retail space and about 33 of the 550 spots in the complex's parking garage.
Although it is tricky to know when to believe a developer as to what will or will not be feasible with or without TIF, this project should be good for the town either way. I for one would really enjoy going up to freeport, doing some strolling, and catching a movie and dinner.
This is TOD without the T. This could be pretty dope tho, I remember visiting LL Bean in the middle of the night as a kid on my way to vacation in Maine. Kinda surprising that Freeport might be a 24hour town and Boston isn't.
An Amtrak station is coming to Freeport -- is it anywhere near this location?
I was also wondering about the exact location of the Amtrak station. The map in the article above shows that this is right along 'Depot Street,' so I am thinking that the tracks may run along the other side of it.

Just checked google maps and there are indeed train tracks right along the eastern side of Depot Street. So the station must be going in somewhere right around this development (unless they build the station a mile out of town like the current Portland one :p )
An Amtrak station is coming to Freeport -- is it anywhere near this location?


You are right about Amtrak, and the stop will be in the immediate vicinity of this development.


If I'm not mistaken it will be just to the right of the bottom picture

"This will fulfill the dream for an awful lot of Maine people to be able to get on the train in Mid-Coast Maine and ride all the way to Boston," Wayne Davis, chairman of Trainriders Northeast, said. "Nearly 5 million people go from the Boston area to Freeport to go shopping. That?s a big market that the Downeaster can tap in to."

and also, answering your question about the article posted in 2007 about LL Bean (asked a few posts back...I haven't heard anymore about that idea (the theme park idea) so I assume nothing came of it.
I would totally take Amtrak up to Freeport for a day, bike around and shop. That town is fun.
Funny story, I grew up near Albany but vacationed in Maine every summer until we moved to Boston when I was 15. Then we stopped going.

I didn't mean that I have taken Amtrak up, I'm saying that I would if I could.
This also appeals to me personally, and perhaps other people in the area that live car-free. Although Freeport is only 20 minutes away by car, which is about the same time to get to the Maine Mall from parts of Portland by car, there is no way that I am aware of to get there without a car. One could bike or walk but either of those are a bit daunting to me (it's about 17 miles each way). I look forward to making a few shopping expeditions up there when the link is completed.

One of the bigger issues that I hear from out-of-towners when it comes to making the trip to Portland is that the location of the terminal is rather inconvenient. Sure, you can take the bus or call a taxi, but it would be much more convenient and alluring to have a station within walking distance of downtown. It's only about 3 miles from the transportation center to the Old Port but it's not the most sceneic and friendly walk for tourists in some spots, especially after dark. Looking forward to being able to go from a station in downtown Portland to downtown Freeport!
Movie theater hoping to open in Freeport this fall
The town passes a tax break for a company planning a complex with six screens, one of them 3D.

By Dennis Hoey
Staff Writer

A new six-screen cinema complex with a 3D movie screen could be open in downtown Freeport in time for this fall's premiere of "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows."

That's the hope of Boston-based Berenson Associates, which got a financial boost for its project this week when the Freeport Town Council approved $200,000 in tax increment financing.

The theater would be in Freeport Village Station, a retail complex that opened last year with a 550-space parking garage. All of the parking is free, a benefit that will continue if the cinema complex opens.

"The town's approval of the TIF was the first hurdle we needed to get over," said Al Yebba, Berenson's chief operating officer. "It's a great help, but there still is a lot of work to do."

He said the next step is to secure financing to help pay for the $2.3 million project.

Berenson Associates asked the town earlier this year for $750,000 in tax increment financing. Berenson reduced that request to $550,000 before agreeing to $200,000 over 10 years.

"Some residents felt (the original) amounts were excessive," said Sande Updegraph, executive director of the Freeport Economic Development Corp.

The cinema complex would occupy space under the L.L. Bean outlet store in Freeport Village Station. Yebba said each theater would have a different seating capacity, with a total capacity of about 760.

The theaters would be operated by Massachusetts-based Belmont Capital, which operates the Windham Five Star Cinema, the Wells Five Star Cinema and Bangor Mall Cinemas under the name Your Neighborhood Theaters.

Yebba said he is optimistic that the Freeport cinema complex -- it may be called the Nordica Theater -- could be open by Thanksgiving, in time for the premiere of the next installment in the blockbuster Harry Potter movie series.

Freeport's original Nordica Theater operated on Bow Street until the early 1970s.

Though $20,000 a year in tax increment financing may not seem like a lot of money, Updegraph said, "It was important for the town to stand up and say, 'We are behind this.'"

Yebba has pledged to hold two Saturday matinee "appreciation events" a year, at which Freeport residents would be able to watch a movie for free.

Town Councilor Joe Migliaccio, one of two councilors who voted against the tax break Tuesday night, said he doesn't feel it is appropriate to provide financial support to "a cineplex."

To approve the financing, the Town Council had to create an arts and culture district in the downtown -- a designation that Migliaccio said doesn't fit a cinema complex.

The TIF arrangement still needs approval from the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
Anyone know what happened to the proposed LL Bean Adventure Park besides the "bad economy"??? I can't believe that the PPH never did a follow-up article on this proposed project considering that they are the ones that broke the story........
Could a moderator please move this to the Maine forum? Thank you!
Not sure if this has been posted elsewhere in this forum - and it is slightly outside the village center - but the L.L. Bean headquarters is well underway and will be completed 2 years ahead of schedule. It definitely has a look - like they started designing and just... stopped? I've driven by relatively recently and it does look better in person, but still not what I'd expect for LLB headquarters.

Progress on L.L.Bean headquarters redevelopment is ahead of schedule

Screen Shot 2022-06-30 at 8.41.12 AM.png
Not sure if this has been posted elsewhere in this forum - and it is slightly outside the village center - but the L.L. Bean headquarters is well underway and will be completed 2 years ahead of schedule. It definitely has a look - like they started designing and just... stopped? I've driven by relatively recently and it does look better in person, but still not what I'd expect for LLB headquarters.

Progress on L.L.Bean headquarters redevelopment is ahead of schedule

View attachment 26000
Being that it is a headquarters for employees only and not a flagship store, I can understand it being more subdued in design. I wish they would do something about the store. It has absolutely ZERO wow factor.