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Tourist information center focus of Rotary discussion

HOULTON, Maine — The Houlton Rotary Club listened to a presentation by guest speakers Erik Urbanek and Andrew Sturgeon during their luncheon meeting Monday, April, 10.

The two speakers were guests of Rotarian Jim Brown. Other guests included Ginny Urbanek and Lucas Grant.

Urbanek and Sturgeon discussed the parcel of land, which currently serves as the home of the Visitor Information Center, at 28 Ludlow Road.

Urbanek, a Houlton native, is based in Portland, where he lives with his wife and four children. Sturgeon is a Lincoln native and now resides in Falmouth where he works in engineering and development of real estate.

The two men discussed how they toured Houlton, with Urbanek showing Sturgeon the marketing opportunities in the Shiretown. He mentioned the property for sale by the town has “tremendous potential” for commercial development.

Urbanek discussed four topics during his presentation — property information, location information, demographic information and ideal uses. His firm is affiliated with SVN, a national commercial real estate network that focuses on assets in the $2 million to $20 million range. The company has over 200 offices around the country.

Although the Houlton parcel is listed at $500,000, Urbanek expressed interest in marketing the property, which features eight acres and a 2,000 square foot log building.

Currently the town owns the property by virtue of a “Governor’s Deed” from the state. Therefore, it is not on the town’s tax rolls. Once the property sells, town leaders wants the purchaser to continue to maintain a 900 square foot tourist information center, either using the existing facility or integrating it into a new development.

Urbanek said he sees this option as an opportunity to develop the land, while still maintaining a vital benefit for the community. The lot is close to Interstate 95 and U.S. Route 1, as well as the Canadian border, serving as a gateway to the north and east.

According to the presenters, the demographics show more than 10,000 households in the greater Houlton area, with the average home valued at $124,000. The average household income is $41,500. They also stated that the population for the greater Houlton area (including surrounding communities) was 10,491, with the median age being 44.

State population figures reveal Portland has a population of about 403,000, while Lewiston/Auburn has about 300,000 and Bangor has about 209,000, while Aroostook County has roughly 100,000.

Ideal uses for the site were listed as lodging, dining, retail space or community service, according to Urbanek. He added the ideal buyer would be a local person with an understanding of the area and its needs.

Urbanek and Sturgeon shared slides of other projects the Urbanek Group has been involved with, such as a 33,000 square foot medical center in Brunswick and a redevelopment of a tannery in Concord, New Hampshire.

For more information on the project, contact Urbanek at 207-613-7400 or erik.urbanek@svn.com.

During the Happy Dollar portion of the meeting, Richard Hammond was lauded for his work at Bingo Night. Nate Bodenstab announced how successful the event was in generating more than $5,000 for the Youth Exchange program.

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