Town requests development proposals for Tannery Park

By Susan Mustapich | Apr 10, 2019
Photo by: Susan Mustapich Residual levels of chemicals and remnants of prior industrial operations on the Tannery Park site will be cleaned up through a new brownfield grant secured by the town of Camden.

CAMDEN — A plan to seek redevelopment proposals for the town-owned Tannery Park property on Washington Street via a sale or lease of the 2.8-acre site, has been drafted by the Camden Economic Development Advisory Committee.

A discussion of the draft Request for Proposals is expected to take place April 22 at the next CEDAC meeting, according to Planning, Development and Code Office Director Jeremy Martin. Meetings take place in the John French Jr. conference room on Washington Street, and are broadcast live on the town of Camden's Youtube channel.

The RFP calls for proposals to include "a proposed purchase price for the developer's acquisition of the property;" a detailed description of the proposed use and redevelopment plans, with conceptual plans or illustrations; estimated development costs; the applicant's financial capability; experience, if any, working on brownfield cleanup properties; a timeline for construction and opening for business; the estimated number and types of permanent jobs created; if housing, the number of units and bedrooms per unit and detail on "how the cost of the proposed housing would be and remain affordable."

The site was privately owned by mill and tannery businesses from approximately 1855 until 1999, when a fire and financial problems led to the demise of the Apollo Tannery. An area of less than a half-acre was contaminated with high levels of chemicals used in the tanning process, and was subsequently remediated in 2008 using federal, state and municipal funds. The town of Camden's share of the cleanup cost was more than $800,000, and was raised by borrowing. Annual payments on the debt are around $60,800, and will continue until Aug. 2025, according to Finance Director Jodi Hanson.

The most recent development occurred in April 2018, when the town obtained a $200,000 Brownfields Cleanup grant to cover or remediate residual levels of chemicals and remnants of prior industrial operations on the Tannery Park site. Town Manager Audra Caler-Bell has spoken about trying to determine the direction of any development of the site, in order to guide the remediation process.

For more than a decade, town officials, committee members and citizens have backed various plans for the property, which fell into two categories, economic development with job creation, or a park area with a children's playground.

Municipal plans to attract job-creating businesses either fell through or met with citizen opposition, and community members have at times divided into factions, with pro-development residents in one corner and pro-park residents in the other. In 2008, voters established on the property a permanent 25-foot-wide easement along the Megunticook River, granted to Coastal Mountains Land Trust, and known as the Riverwalk. In 2014, a straw poll vote on the property's future showed 51 percent in favor of economic development and 49 percent in favor of green space.

The current RFP seeks to incorporate the work of the Apollo Tannery Redevelopment Work Group, which supported the sale of the property and job creation. From 2007 to 2008, the group developed guiding principles for the site, which have been codified by town meeting votes, and set criteria for the sale of the property. A November 2008 town-wide vote required a public vote prior to any sale.

The RFP also seeks to include the guidance of the Tannery Workgroup, which from 2015 to 2017created a plan for a park, playground, farmer's market and a potential  building to be developed. The property has been the home of the Camden Farmer's Market for the past two years, and during that time, the Select Board choose the name Tannery Park for the site.

"Redevelopment proposals that create well-paying, year-round jobs are strongly encouraged," according to the RFP. "However, it is desired that a developer will implement as many of the recommendations of the Tannery Work Group as possible."

The RFP emphasizes the value of the property's location, "within a walkable half-mile of a $30 million middle school that is under construction and within one mile of downtown Camden." Martin describes the land as one of two undeveloped town-owned parcels, which is served by power, water and sewer infrastructure.

The RFP specifies that "the Town is open to any redevelopment proposals, including a mixed-use development," which "may include residential, offices, retail, light industrial, and other commercial uses, in addition to green space that integrates with the Megunticook Riverwalk Trail and accommodates the Camden Farmers Market."

Comments (2)
Posted by: Tom Resek | Apr 16, 2019 18:29

My name is Tom Resek and I live on Rawson Ave. I was a member of the Tannery Work Group and I am currently the Chairperson of the "Friends of Tannery Park"

I also was a contributor to the EPA Grant Application that was awarded to Camden for the additional remediation at "Tannery Park".

I wanted to communicate some important information that should be considered before approving an RFP regarding the Tannery Site.


My biggest concern regarding the RFP as currently drafted by Jeremy Martin, is that it seeks a sale of the entire 2.8 acres of the site to a private developer for redevelopment.


A much smaller portion of the property (less than one-third) was recommended for possible commercial use in the Tannery Work Group's final report.


Any request for a redevelopment proposal was  meant to only apply to that smaller commercial portion of the site.

This public/private MULTI_USE concept was presented to the community at three well attended  meetings over a two year period and then finally accepted by the Select Board on a unanimous vote. This concept was also a basis of the grant application to the EPA .  Our Town Manger, Audra Caler Bell also restated this multi-use concept to the Camden Herald / Village Soup in an article on April 26, 2018.  "We worked really hard to communicate through our grant application all the hard work done by the community, particularly the Tannery Working Group, to come up with a multi-use redevelopment plan that fulfills

the dual purposes of creating economic and business development opportunities, as well as providing community

and recreation areas for the town.    "


It was a multi-use plan that would be a community centered space surrounded by the Riverwalk.  It would include a community fund-raised playground, a permanent space for the Camden Farmers' Market, green open space and a possible Commercial/ Non Commercial structure that would be a good fit with the community based nature of  the site. The Town of Camden would retain ownership to the public portions of the site.


In support of this concept the Select Board sought a new permanent name for the site and renamed the site "Tannery Park" on July 11 2017.


The Town then sought and received an EPA Clean-Up grant on April 25th, 2018 which supported the multi-use concept.  The grant application state that only " a portion of the property will also be separated and redeveloped for commercial use, such as restaurants, boutique retail stores, or small local business."


The RFP should reflect the stated goals of the Tannery work Group, the EPA grant application, the Select Board and the words to the public from our Town Manager.  The path to realization of the multi-use "Tannery Park" has been clearly established and should be followed.


I would suggest that community members that are interested in seeing that the Town follows the consensus plan that was the result of two years of work by the "Tannery Work Group" attend the CEDAC meeting on April 22 at 4pm in the French (Washington St) Conference Room


In drafting any RFP we  need to heed the lessons of the past and build on the consensus regarding  "Tannery Park" that has already been accepted by a large part  of the community.




Tom Resek

Friends of Tannery Park -Chair

past Member of The Tannery Work Group

Park and Rec Committee Member

Neighbor of "Tannery Park"



Excerpts from The Town's EPA Cleanup Grant Application for the Tannery Site submitted to the EPA and awarded to the Town of Camden”

"Because of the Site’s optimum location, the Town of Camden envisions it being redeveloped into

a park or community space, as well as a year-round farmers market. It is likely that a portion of

the property will also be separated and redeveloped for commercial use, such as restaurants,

boutique retail stores, or small local business."

"Through communication via a volunteer work group established by the Camden Select Board,

the combined commercial/community-use concept was approved by the Select Board in March

of 2017. The general concept plan was drawn up through collaboration between the work group

and landscape architects with input from the public at a series of community meetings. The

multi-use plan, which is flexible in nature, envisions areas designated for building(s), park/open

space, and a farmer’s market."

"The Town of Camden has undertaken a very rigorous community engagement process in drafting

and approving a redevelopment plan for the former Tannery site that is acceptable to surrounding

neighbors and provides both economic and community development opportunities for the

broader community. Camden has been working with community organizations and residents in

the Target Area throughout the planning process to solicit input on potential reuse scenarios for

the Apollo Tannery Site. In the past year, several public meetings have been held with abutters,

neighborhood associations and local officials to discuss the environmental concerns and potential

redevelopment for the Site. These meetings have been well attended, and community interest has

been high. The Town formed a Tannery Work Group to manage a community engagement

process with the goal of crafting a redevelopment plan. This included a lot of workshops and

community meetings where stakeholders and interested community members were able to

directly participate in the planning process."

(Excerpted from The Town's EPA Cleanup Grant Application for the Tannery Site submitted to the EPA and awarded to the Town of Camden”)


Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 10, 2019 15:15

Kudos for trying to keep environmental open spaces and a reasonable combination of Offices, Retail and other commercial uses.

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