by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
CAMDEN — There’s land open for the taking in Camden. An open lot, with full utility hookups, and river-frontage, it sits right in a prime location for downtown. It can be yours for the low, low price of absolutely nothing.
There is, of course, a bit of a catch. Unless the new structure meets certain criteria established by the town of Camden, they’re not buying. Chief among these, is that it needs to be a new business that will bring valuable jobs to the town. In return for bringing jobs, the business gets a great piece of land.
“It is literally walkable right to the downtown and Camden Harbor,” said Brian Hodges, the director of the Camden development office. “It’s a prime location.”
With free land, complete with zoning for 300 employees plus parking, three-phase power, sewer, water, cable, and broadband Internet hookups all in place on riverfront property, it’s a great spot. The town has even made sure the location is as appealing as possible.
“We invested just about a million dollars into the remediation of the site, in order to get it attractive to a business,” said Hodges.
With all of these factors, this land should be snatched up within a matter of moments, right?
“It’s actually been around a couple of years now. It was first launched before I arrived here,” said Hodges.
The property itself has been a problem for the town for years now. The site of the old tannery, the location has remained vacant and unused even with the million-dollar development put into it.
But the problem, according to Hodges, isn’t the property. The problem is the economy.
“Unfortunately this was launched right at the downfall of the economy,” said Hodges. “I don’t think we are seeing a lot, anywhere, of companies putting up new buildings and having any significant expansions. Because before the economy did ‘tank’, for a lack of a better word, we had activity going on in the state.”
There has been interest in the property since the program was launched, and it did get attention initially in the national media due to its novelty.
“We’ve had some light manufacturing, a housing-type entity, health-and-wellness-program-type facilities, a restaurant, greenhouses, a combination office and residential building – it runs the gamut,” said Hodges.
For now, the property will remain empty until a developer that meets the town’s criteria. According to Hodges, the town is willing to wait until a suitable proposal is made, considering the value and investment that has been put into the property. Even though the program hasn’t resulted in a building in the space, Hodges is still confident that it has been successful to a degree.
“Has it worked?” said Hodges. “Not in the immediate sense. But it certainly has generated longer conversations than we were having before.”