Town files for cleanup grant

Berwick, Maine

Berwick is moving forward with plans to clean up the former Prime Tanning property in the center of downtown.

Town manager Patrick Venne says the town is in the process of filing an application for close to $1 million in federal environmental cleanup grants for the 11-acre site that dominates the center of Berwick. Prime Tanning closed in 2008 after nearly 100 years in business. Since then, the town has been looking at ways to rehabilitate and redevelop the property.

Venne says that much progress has been made this year on redeveloping the site. Town residents adopted a downtown vision plan in May, which calls for a new walkable urban center, more green space, and additional space for local retail businesses. “It’s an aspirational goal that sets out what the town wants and gives us something to shoot for,” he says.

In November, voters approved a plan to allow the town and Fund of Jupiter, the mortgage holder on the property, to partner together for cleanup efforts. As part of the plan, the town foreclosed on the property and took ownership of it, which allowed the town to apply for the cleanup grants. Once the site is cleaned up, Venne says the town will return ownership of the property to Fund of Jupiter.

“In all likelihood, they will end up partnering with a developer in seeing what’s financially feasible,” he says.

If the town receives the grants, Venne says cleanup work could begin in the summer of 2015 and would take one or two years to complete.

Though Venne says that it could be another five to 10 years before the property is redeveloped, it’s already helped catalyze other revitalization efforts in downtown Berwick. The Berwick Art Association formed out of the downtown visioning committee, which has hosted design charettes and community meetings about Prime Tanning and other projects. The downtown visioning committee also helped build a walking trail through downtown, and the town recently held its second winter farmers market.