2016-11-11 / Front Page

Bowling alley plan moves forward

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — A sizable crowd gathered in council chambers at Kennebunk Town Hall broke into applause Thursday, Nov. 3 as the site plan review board granted it’s blessing to a new bowling alley, slated to go in downtown at the site of the former Garden Street Market.

The 10-lane alley, dubbed Garden Street Bowl, will be accompanied by Crotux Kitchen and Taphouse, a restaurant slated to serve “creative pub fare” and “an extensive list of craft beer, wine and spirits.”

The project, said to cost $2.3 million, will remake the grocery story, which closed in 2010, creating a vacuum on the downtown shopping scene that has persisted ever since.

Richard Morin, chairman of the Kennebunk Board of Selectmen, called the new facility a “godsend” to the downtown, but said he purposefully stayed away from the Nov. 3 meeting because of concern for the impact the development might have on the farmers’ market, which sets up in the former market parking lot on Saturdays during the growing season.

Selectmen have been inundated with emails from residents concerned the bowling alley will push out the farmers, especially after Town Planner Judy Bernstein reportedly said during a site walk that they farmers would not be able to stay.

That was also a concern of many who spoke at the Nov. 3 meeting. However, town engineer Chris Osterrieder said neither he nor Bernstein “have any authority to make that decision.”

The back part of the parking lot, where the farmers generally set up, is town-owned land, he said, meaning selectmen will make the ultimate decision.

“I am not aware of any representation from the town indicating they cannot exist there,” Osterrieder said. “But whether anyone can be there is a function only of what the town owns. I think for it to exist as it did last year, that’s got to be evaluated. But I don’t know of any reason why the town would say they can’t be there.”

The bowling alley and restaurant is owned by three partners — Jake Peterson, John Nelson and Dan Hardy — all veterans of the Village Tavern in West Kennebunk.

“Around here that is well recognized for being a pretty popular restaurant, and they are going to bring that skill set downtown,” said Kennebunk’s Economic Development Director Mat Eddy.

“I think by December we’ll be hearing about them closing on the property and beginning construction,” Eddy said, expressing enthusiasm for the project.

“The combination of the bowling alley and the Waterhouse Center gives a really nice 24/7 seven-days-a-week opportunity to have activity in the downtown, and that’s what’s really important to the retail establishments.

What we need to do now, is that once we get people down here, whether its for the farmers’ market, or the bowling alley, or for events at the Waterhouse Center, is how to then get the people into the shops, and that’s something we are working with the Chamber [of Commerce] on,” Eddy said.

There have been several false starts on redeveloping the 10,000-square-foot market since it closed. One issue is that Hannaford Supermarket took out a 25-year lease on the property with its Brunswick-based owner. The grocery giant was paying about $65,000 per year in rent on the site just to keep another grocery store from going in on the site.

“They’ve actually been a tremendous help in all of this,” Eddy said. “In return for a no-compete clause, they agreed to relinquish the lease and let the building be sold. They’re even putting a little money into the deal.”

“We’re hoping to keep the farmers’ market right here on the town-owned property, and all signs point to that working out,” Eddy said. “The new owners are all locally-based and real community oriented. One of the partners grew up here, and they really care. They really want this entire place to do really well.”

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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